A Visionary Masterpiece

Because some of the proposed renovations were located within a flood plain, regulations prohibited adding new materials. The district was able to comply with the county’s guidelines by reusing materials for tee construction on five of the course’s holes.

A Natural ConclusionIn addition to bunker and tee renovations, extensive landscape restoration involving native vegetation took place on the approaches to several holes, as well as on buffers around the existing lagoon. Aiding in the filtration of fertilizers and pesticides through a fibrous root system that helps purify the run-off before it enters the Fox River, native plants also provide an essential habitat for the various birds and animals found on the golf course.

While landscaping is a key component of the natural environment, keeping another plant group–grass–is, naturally, a major focus. Healthy turf not only contributes to the overall level of course playability, but also is an important aesthetic component. The challenge was finding a way to consistently make the course lush and green without stressing fragile natural resources. Water conservation, in the form of an upgraded and redesigned underground sprinkler system, was therefore part of the district’s environmental game plan.

Replacing the old single-row system with a double-row system and installing a new variable-frequency drive system provided better direction and control. “It made a huge difference in that the course became almost wall-to-wall green,” says Wheeler. A new pump also allowed for more efficient use of resources, in that water was no longer drawn from the river, but instead removed directly from the district’s well.

Indeed, accessing the river itself had become more problematic over the years, especially as its shoreline continued to erode. Since the river played such an essential role in the original course design, controlling riverbank deterioration was of paramount concern. Collaborating with the Kane-DuPage Soil and Water Conservation District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the district undertook a shoreline stabilization project designed by local architect Jim Spear, who installed gabion baskets–interconnecting wire baskets filled with rocks–that functioned as retention walls. The baskets were then covered with horticultural cloth imbedded with native plant material that not only helped secure precious soil, but provided yet another wildlife habitat.

Concern for the environment was also evident in the choice of material used in renovating cart paths throughout the course. Limestone flagstone was used to line the paths and, instead of asphalt, the paths were filled with gravel and other natural screening products.

Playing Through

In following standards put forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the course installed a new drinking fountain at hole seven; it also constructed a second protective storm shelter at hole nine; and replaced a connecting bridge between holes three and seven. In this way, the seven-year renovation program was as considerate as it was comprehensive. Yet, through it all, the course remained open for play, which dictated a certain amount of inconvenience for players. “We didn’t have the ability to shut down, do everything, and then reopen,” says Gillett-Parchert.

Sometimes, the course needed to be divided into specific sections in order to allow continued play. Such disturbances were taken in stride, according to Wheeler. “Players were OK with it when they knew it was something they had asked for, and they knew there was logical reasoning behind the things we were doing.” The district took special pains to keep golfers abreast of the renovations, such as displaying presentation boards featuring conceptual plans and updated photos in the Pro Shop, and encouraging comments on the work being done.

“I think these projects were a testimony to our players, to let them know that we want to give them the best product we can,” says Gillett-Parchert.

How’s the feedback now? “It’s great, it’s wonderful,” declares Wheeler.

Erika Young is the public relations and marketing manager of the St. Charles Park District. She can be reached via e-mail at scpd@st-charlesparks.org.

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  1. A Visionary Masterpiece
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  3. Driving Home The Point
  4. The Shifting Sands
  5. Mini Golf For Small Spaces

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