Green Techniques On The Green

Tierra Verde Golf Club in south Arlington has always been admired as an outstanding North Texas golf course, but lately it has received much attention for something else–its environmentally friendly way of doing business.

Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) recently awarded the Arlington municipal golf course its Lone Star Land Steward Award, which honors the accomplishments of landowners in each of Texas’s 10 ecological regions. The selections are chosen based on the landowners’ commitment to habitat management and wildlife conservation.

TPW developed the program 13 years ago with the goal of educating and encouraging the public to take part in the preservation of natural habitats and ecosystems. The hope is that the public recognition will help gain exposure for the best examples of successful practices in managing natural resources. TPW also hopes to encourage youth education and participation in responsible habitat management and to improve the health of our ecosystems.

Perhaps what’s most astounding about Tierra Verde’s award is the company in which the course found itself. The award is designed for private landowners that re-establish native flora and fauna, rather than for a city-owned golf course in the suburbs.

“Each year we see a diverse group of dedicated landowners managing their wildlife and natural resources in innovative ways,” said Linda Campbell, TPW Private Lands Program director. “They are models for others to emulate in today’s changing Texas.”

Joining Forces

So what made this golf course become the first course to ever receive this award?

Golf courses have been around for nearly 600 years. The early courses–such as St. Andrews in Scotland–were developed to follow the natural contours of the area of soft hills, native grasses and sand dunes. For hundreds of years, new courses followed the same design; however, in the 1940s, innovations in chemistry, construction and irrigation opened up new areas to golf course development, allowing developers to build courses without respect to natural habitat.

When the City of Arlington Parks and Recreation Department decided to build a new course in the southern part of the city, officials worked closely with Audubon International in building a course from the ground up, that focused on conserving the site’s existing native vegetation, natural resources and biodiversity. They also wanted the course to serve as a place where nature-education programs could be held.

Audubon International (no relation to the National Audubon Society) is a non-profit conservation group based in New York State that provides the world’s only environmental certification program for golf courses. Since the early 1990s, it has helped 2,500 U.S. golf courses begin the multi-step process toward eco-friendly certification. This includes improving water conservation, creating wildlife habitat and finding alternatives to chemicals. To date, almost 370 have completed the rigorous program. Tierra Verde was the first municipal golf course to receive certification.

“Our goal is to educate golf course superintendents, not regulate them,” says Audubon International President Ron Dodson. “Many states don’t require golf course developers to file environmental impact statements. So just to meet our minimum requirements for certification, many courses are doing more than what local, state or federal agencies need.”

Tierra Verde–along with several other native courses–began building or installing their links with wide swaths of native plants and wildlife habitat, drought-tolerant grasses, and natural integrated pest-control techniques that reduce chemical use. As a result, Tierra Verde opened in 1998, and after two years under the watchful eye of Audubon, it became the first municipal course to achieve Audubon International Signature status–a category reserved for new projects. The Martin Luther King Jr. Sports Center, adjacent to Tierra Verde, became the first sports center in the world to be certified as an Audubon Signature Cooperative Sanctuary. Also, in 2004, Golf Digest awarded Tierra Verde the Environmental Leaders in Golf Award, which recognizes golf courses worldwide for their environmental excellence.

For The Golfers

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