Thursday, April 24, 2014

Earth Day 2014 at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay

What better way to celebrate Earth Day 2014 than to spend it with about 50 friends promoting the environmentally sustainable efforts of the golf course industry.  Even though it drizzled from time to time during the day we had a great turnout of TDEC officials, community friends, golf course industry members, equipment manufacturers, and local, state, and national media.  All here to discuss how golf courses can beneficially contribute to the environment.

Before lunch we had time for people to gather, talk, and look at our Jacobsen ECLIPSE 322 electric mowers.  Some, non golf course people, were brave enough to take them out for a spin on the putting green.  All were amazed at how quiet they are and how easy it is to operate them.

After lunch, Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill kicked off the presentations detailing how the Tennessee Golf Trail and Tennessee State Parks contribute to the sustainability of the environment within Tennessee.  He then introduced Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau (pictured) who started his presentation with our department "motto" that "Every day is Earth Day at TDEC".  This is true and we strive everyday to make decisions that best limit our impact on the environment and natural resources.

I was very happy that Dr. Jim Brosnan (pictured), Professor of Plant Sciences at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, was able to speak at our event.  Dr. Brosnan spoke to attendees about the role of golf courses in limiting the use of water by allowing naturalized areas to grow on golf courses and how golf courses can protect the waterways by providing buffer strips around the edge of waterways to filter chemicals and fertilizer runoff.  I was also grateful for Dr. Brandon Horvath and my "old" friend Dr. Tom Samples joined us for the day's event.

Our next speaker was Ron Wright, CGCS, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Southeast Field Rep.  Mr. Wright has a special insight into how golf courses can contribute to the betterment of the environment because he has been in the golf course industry for over 30 years. Mr. Wright gets to see a multitude of golf courses across the southeast each year and had many great stories to tell about how the golf course industry is turning our reputation around from several years ago of being "environmental polluters".

One of the most special things that happened on Earth Day, in my opinion, was when Mr. Wright, on behalf of GCSAA and the Environmental Institute for Golf, presented Ms. Lori Munkeboe, Director of TDEC's Office of Sustainable Practices, a special Certificate of Recognition for her and her offices work on the Electric Equipment Initiative at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.  If it were not for Ms. Munkeboe wondering if there was any electric golf course equipment we could use, this celebration at Harrison Bay probably would not have happened.

The last speaker of the day was Mr. David Withers, Jacobsen Worldwide President.  Mr. Withers has a special passion for the environment that I have not seen from another equipment manufacturer.  Mr. Withers spoke to our guests about how equipment has changed over the years and how Jacobsen has embraced the need and desire of golf course superintendents to provide a high quality product while also limiting the strain on natural resources. Jacobsen's commitment to the environment lead to the creation of the fully electric Eclipse 322 mowers, one of the reasons we were able to reduce our gasoline usage by over 9,000 gallons this past year.

Mr. Withers, Paul Carter, Comm. Bob Martineau
Mr. Withers was also gracious enough to present The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay with our certification from Golf Environment Organization or GEO.  Jacobsen was the first equipment manufacturer to see the benefit of promoting environmental sustainability through GEO, so we were thrilled when Mr. Withers volunteered to present our certification.  Being only one of six golf courses in the United States to garner this exclusive environmental certification and having it be awarded on Earth Day was the icing on the cake.

Wildlife Walk group gathered in front of one of
our Operation Pollinator plantings
After the presentations were complete, and even though it was drizzling a bit, Mitch and Bill took our guests on a little "wildlife walk".  Our guests walked down along #10 fairway were Mitch and Bill showed them our wild turkey feeders, our blue bird houses, our wood duck nesting houses, our mallard duck nesting tubes, and finished it up near the Harrison Bay Eagle Cam nesting tree where Harrison Bay State Park Manager Don Campbell and HBSP Ranger Matt Vawter told the guests about the project and allowed them to look at the eagles through a spotting scope and binoculars.  For several of our guests this was the first time they had seen a bald eagle in the wild and were amazed at how beautiful they really are.

The Earth Day Celebration at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay presented by Jacobsen was a tremendous success and I think we were able to help educate and inform our guests on how golf courses can be, and are, environmental stewards.

A special thanks goes out everyone who decided to spend the day celebrating with us.  We had many state and local officials, community friends, and media from around the nation join us and we could not be happier.

A very special thanks has to go out to Mr. Adam Slick of Jacobsen for thinking of and coordinating the event. Ms. Sharon and Ms. Amy were terrific in organizing the event and being the smart ones who thought of providing umbrellas which came in very helpful to our guests.  Mr. Glenn Gray of We Are Golf and Buffalo Communications did a great job of coordinating with all the media around the world to make sure the event got the maximum amount of coverage possible.

In case you were not able to attend here are some of the media reports on the event

WDEF Chattanooga CBS affiliate "Earth Day and Eagles..." "A golf club with more eagles than most"

Chattanooga Times Free Press "Bear Trace a fitting site for Earth Day Celebration"

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