Letting Nature Take the Course

By | June 20th, 2018

After earning certification as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, Paradise Valley Country Club now holds an annual Audubon Day event to educate members and their children on the importance of protecting natural resources.

Audubon Day at Paradise Valley CC is held on a different part of the property each year, to help showcase the full reach of the property’s environmental efforts.

Sometimes, it only takes a short while to make a longlasting impression on the next generation. Just ask the folks at Paradise Valley (Ariz.) Country Club (PVCC).

Led by Assistant Golf Course Superintendent Jason Jesty, PVCC started an initiative to pursue Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP) certification in 2009. After achieving certification in January 2016, the property started holding an “Audubon Day” event each February, to educate members and their children about the importance of protecting natural resources.

“Being a golf course facility, we want to be good stewards of the environment,” says Clubhouse Manager John Neill, CCM. “It’s important to our team, and to our membership.”

ACSP is an education and certification program that helps organizations and businesses protect the environment while enhancing their bottom line. For a golf course to achieve ACSP certification, it must implement environmental management practices in six areas: environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, chemical-use reduction and safety, water conservation, water quality management, and outreach and education.

PVCC, located in the Phoenix metropolitan area, occupies a natural desert in the middle of town. Wildlife on the property includes birds of prey, coyotes, and bobcats. “We’re in the middle of a metropolitan area, yet we have this thorough
fare of wildlife,” notes Neill.

THE GOAL: Highlight the efforts by Paradise Valley CC to protect the environment—and the club’s Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program certification—through a family-oriented, educational “Audubon Day” event.

THE PLAN: Members of the Paradise Valley staff work together to plan activities to teach the members and their children about the importance of environmental stewardship. Each year the event is held on a different part of the property, to showcase different aspects of the facility’s environmental efforts.

THE PAYOFF: Through the Audubon Day event, Paradise Valley CC promotes ongoing awareness about environmental stewardship, and strengthens its relationships with local conservation organizations that actively maintain wildlife. The event gives the membership, as well as conservation partners, an appreciation of the property’s environmental stewardship efforts and promotes the message that care for the environment and the creation of natural habitats for wildlife are important to the property.

Typically, the club’s Audubon Day event is held on a Sunday afternoon for one to two hours. Staff members who plan the activities include Neill, Jesty, Golf Course Superintendent Rob Collins, Horticulturist Jack Irish, and Member Events Coordinator Michelle Solomon, as well as those who serve on the property’s Audubon Committee.

“Everyone from grandparents to children can participate in the events,” says Collins. “Each year it evolves a little bit, [as] we look for opportunities to remain current.”

The property has also partnered with local conservation organizations, including Liberty Wildlife, a bird sanctuary that rehabilitates injured birds of prey, the Southwest Valley Boy Scouts, and the Desert Botanical Garden.

The partnerships with the Boy Scouts and conservation organizations engage the community in PVCC’s environmental efforts. When the groups see the work that the club is doing, Collins explains, “They become exposed to a new element of the community that is environmentally sensitive.”

And when it’s realized that the golf course is a wildlife habitat, he adds, “They begin to see us in a different light.”

A repurposed vehicle fender protects outdoor air-hose reels from the elements.


Course-and-grounds maintenance innovations developed recently by the staff at The Country Club of Virginia (CCV), Richmond, Va., included an air hose protector, fashioned from a vehicle fender that was no longer being used, to cover air-hose reels that are attached to the outside of the property’s maintenance buildings and used for operating air wrenches, inflating tires and cleaning off machinery. While previously the hoses were exposed to the elements and deterioration, the convex shape of the fender has proved to be a perfect fit directly over the hose reels, lengthening their life and eliminating the need to buy new hoses as frequently.

A spray wand helps operators do outstanding job.

The CCV staff also devised a spray application wand designed to lessen strain on operators when applying “soil drenches” directly at the base of ornamental plants. By taking threaded PVC fittings and attaching them to the sprayer hose and gun, and then adding a piece of PVC pipe to extend the overall length of the application wand, operators now can use a device that lets them reach the base of plants without bending over and also access harder-to-reach places, such as around rose bushes, more easily. The inexpensive addition has made pesticide applications at the CCV property more efficient and saved multiple man-hours, while also reducing the need for operators to constantly bend over.

Volunteers from the Boy Scouts have helped the PVCC grounds crew build nesting boxes for birds and create a nature trail with signage describing the desert plants along the route.

And PVCC joined forces with Desert Botanical Garden for its Great Milkweed Grow Out initiative for monarch butterfly conservation. During the past two decades, the monarch population has dropped by as much as 90 percent, and the loss of milkweed habitat—the only plant where the butterflies can lay their eggs, and the only food source for caterpillars—is a major factor in the decline.

So as part of the Audubon Day activities, Desert Botanical Garden personnel are on site to help families learn how to plant milkweed. “The golf course has so much acreage where we can create milkweed habitat,” says Neill. “This year we worked with members’ kids to plant a garden, and we will plant a couple of additional acres of milkweed habitat in the near future. We also potted and watered plants that the kids took and hopefully planted at home.”

PVCC has also joined Monarchs in the Rough, a partnership between the Environmental Defense Fund and Audubon International, to help fight the species’ population decline. The goal of this partnership, which is open to any North American golf course, is to fight the habitat loss by planting milkweed in out-of-play areas.

Other Audubon Day activities include arts and crafts, exhibits, informative talks from members of the conservation organization partners, and a bird release.“ We try to keep it kid-centric, and we always do a release of rehabilitated birds as a symbolic gesture,” says Neill.

In addition, the event is held on various parts of the property, to showcase different aspects of PVCC’s environmental efforts. “We have had Audubon Day at the nature trail, and this year we had it near the clubhouse at the milkweed garden,” says Neill. “Maybe next year we’ll have it at the golf course maintenance building.”

Planning the Audubon Day event is a team effort for the Paradise Valley CC staff. Pictured above (left to right): John Neill, Clubhouse Manager; Jack Irish, Horticulturist; Rob Collins, Golf Course Superintendent; Michelle Solomon, Member Events Coordinator; and Jason Jesty, Assistant Golf Course Superintendent.


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