Environmental Initiatives and Programs

At the City of Ann Arbor Golf Courses, we view ourselves as stewards of the golf course. We have the privilege, as well as the responsibility, to manage it in such a way that will make it an asset for the Ann Arbor golfing community, while also enhancing wildlife habitat, protecting indigenous vegetation and protecting community water resources.

Leslie Park and Huron Hills use pesticides (fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and plant growth regulators) in a solely curative way. This means that we only apply a pesticide in the presence of a confirmed pathogen. Before deciding to use a pesticide, golf course staff consults a thorough Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. The primary principle of IPM is the pest triangle. This is based on the assumption that in order for a pest to become a problem, three conditions must be met: 1) the pest has to have a host that is susceptible to the pathogen; 2) the environmental conditions for the pest must be present; 3) the pest must be present.

Pest management

Spraying a chemical will eliminate the third leg of the triangle, but we always try to impact the other two legs so that a pest infestation will not occur. If we can choose a turfgrass or other plant that is not subject to a disease or pest, we always use that plant. The most common way for the golf course to impact the pest triangle is to alter the environment. For example, dollar spot is a fungus that attacks turf at a temperature between 60 and 85 degrees, but it also requires at least 12 hours of leaf blade wetness. Often, we will drag a rope between two golf carts first thing in the morning to get rid of the dew. This will cut down on the time the leaf is wet and thus the amount of dollar spot that we have in our fairways.

Another important concept of IPM is to establish an economic threshold of injury. We have to realize that we never will be completely free of a certain pest. The trick is to determine at what point the injury from a pathogen becomes too severe and must be corrected. Our tolerance for dollar spot on greens is lower than it is on tees. Tees have a lower threshold than fairways, which have a lower threshold than roughs and out of play areas.

An often-overlooked aspect of IPM is the monitoring of chemical applications. At both Leslie Park and Huron Hills, we keep track of the chemicals we apply and the effectiveness of those applications. This helps prevent pesticide resistance and helps determine whether the cost and effort are justified.

When possible, the courses try to use pesticides with lower toxicity and has begun to experiment with nontraditional pesticides such as Civitas. Civitas is a synthetic paraffin wax that acts as a plant protectorant and, when used in conjunction with a traditional pesticide, allows us to use half the recommended rates with similar results to using the full rate of the pesticides. We also have tried some bacterial additives that target the dollar spot pathogen.

Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program

Leslie Park is a Certified Legacy Member environmental steward in the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program. Huron Hills is currently pursuing certification in the program.The mission of the program is:

•To advance the environmental stewardship of Michigan's golf industry by increasing the awareness and understanding of Michigan's environmental resources and the potential impacts of golf turf management, and also by elevating the level of pollution protection;

•To enhance fish and wildlife habitat and indigenous vegetation, and to protect water resources with buffer zones on golf course properties;

•To clearly identify environmental laws and regulations and advance the compliance of the golf turf industry;

•To engage the golf industry, regulatory agencies, and environmental citizen groups in productive communication; and

•To recognize, promote, and award environmental stewardship achievements.

Leslie Park accomplishes these objectives through promoting and communicating best management practices to control potential sources of pollution; minimizing inputs to the environment and complying with all environmental laws and regulation; adopting pollution protection practices; and reducing wastes. We also are committed to protecting water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and native vegetation, as well as all of the natural resources of the City of Ann Arbor.

The Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program is intended to organize efforts of the turfgrass industry, state agencies, Michigan State University, and environmental advocacy groups to advance the environmental stewardship of the turfgrass industry and to recognize environmental achievements. The program was developed at MSU with support from the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation, the Golf Association of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Since 2004, the Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program has provided the base funding to develop the program.

Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program

Leslie Park also is certified through Audubon International's Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. This program was developed by Audubon International, and helps golf courses protect our environment and preserve the natural heritage of the game of golf. By helping enhance the valuable natural areas and wildlife habitats that golf courses provide, enhancing efficiency, and minimizing potentially harmful impacts of golf courses, the program serves as a vital resource for Leslie Park.

The Audubon program is designed to protect and sustain the land, water, wildlife, and natural resources in and surrounding the golf course. There are six categories that must be achieved before certification can be granted.

1. Environmental Planning (Achieved, March, 2010)

2. Chemical Use Reduction and Safety (Achieved, July, 2011)

3. Water Conservation (Achieved, July, 2011)

4. Water Quality Management (Achieved, July, 2011)

5. Outreach and Education (Achieved, January 2012)

6. Wildlife and Habitat Management (Achieved, January 2012)

Other stewardship efforts

As part of our commitment to water quality management, the city of Ann Arbor does not allow the use of phosphorous fertilizer except for new seeding or when a soil test shows a deficiency. This complies with the Huron River Watershed Council's recommendation. The State of Michigan adopted a similar regulation that is went into effect statewide in January 2012.

In an effort to lessen environmental impact of the golf courses, we have used B20 biodiesel in all of our equipment since 2008. B20 is a blend of 20% soy-based fuel and 80% conventional diesel fuel. Not only does this decrease our dependence on petroleum, it also decreases the amount of hydro-carbon emissions.

Leslie Park and Huron Hills are committed to combining the great conditions of a first-rate golf course with environmentally sound practices that foster sustainability of the ecosystem on the property. While golf is our primary function, we believe that a great golf experience does not have to come at the expense of our natural environment.