The course maintenance staff led by Superintendent Michael Cooper at the 200-acre, two-year-old Berthoud, Colo. property has been recognized for environmental planning by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, and the property expects to earn Audubon certification by the end of 2020. Initiatives have included planting native grasses; conserving water through a variety of measures; counting species and wildlife that include elk and bald eagles; building bird boxes; reducing pesticide use, and providing habitat for the declining monarch butterfly population.
This spring, TPC Colorado in Berthoud, Colo. will add to its acres of milkweed to provide habitat for the declining monarch butterfly population—part of a larger effort to weave environmental practices into the operations of the golf course, according to the Loveland, Colo. Reporter-Herald.
Other steps taken by the course management staff at TPC Colorado have included planting native grasses, conserving water through specific equipment and native plants, counting species, building bird boxes and reducing pesticide use through integrated pest management, according to the Reporter-Herald.
These efforts and more have earned TPC Colorado and its superintendent, Michael Cooper, recognition in environmental planning from the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program through Audubon International, according to the Reporter-Herald. And by the end of 2020, Cooper expects that the golf course will have completed its plans and earned certification through Audubon.
“Golf courses get a negative rap for using a lot of water,” Cooper told the Reporter-Herald. “We’re conserving the use of water, and we’re also providing a habitat for wildlife and for people.”
The 200-acre golf course, which opened in 2018, is home to elk, coyotes, foxes, bald eagles, osprey, blue herons and many other species, as well as 18 holes of premier golf, according to the Reporter-Herald. The goal is for both uses to coexist, with native grasses and habitats bordering manicured greens.
Of the 200 acres at TPC Colorado, 110 are irrigated turf, 82 acres are planted in native grasses (particularly fine fescue) as naturalized areas, and eight surface acres make up the course’s irrigation pond. This year, Cooper told the Reporter-Herald, the property will install eight diffusers in the body of water to naturally reduce algae and prevent the need for use of chemicals.
The plans in place through Audubon International for certification, as well as best management practices for Colorado golf courses and for TPC-affiliated courses get into the nitty-gritty, including the type of sprinkler heads chosen to not waste water, methods to reduce the use of chemicals, and actions to conserve the amount of water used, according to the Reporter-Herald.
The efforts also tie into providing wildlife habitat. The native grasses in the course’s naturalized areas attract elk herds in the winter. The habitat also provides home and food sources to eagles and other raptors. And by participating in Monarchs in the Rough, a program designed by Audubon and the Environmental Defense Fund, TPC managers will plant additional milkweed to augment natural occurrences within the golf course to attract monarch butterflies, according to the Reporter-Herald.
The effort is aimed at increasing populations of the monarch butterflies, which are as useful as they are beautiful. They are important pollinators as well as a food source for birds, small mammals and other insects, according to information on the National Park Service website.
But with declining habitat, more frequent and severe droughts and the use of pesticides, their populations have been declining, according to the Reporter-Herald. The Monarchs in the Rough program reports a 90% population drop in monarchs over the past 20 years.
By encouraging golf course properties to plant milkweed, and providing the seed, the program is working to reverse that trend. TPC Colorado has received its seed for the program and expects to plant in May and June, according to the Reporter-Herald.
The TPC Colorado staff also plans to build and install bird boxes to provide nesting space to the mourning dove, northern flicker and barn swallow, according to the Reporter-Herald. The club also plans to continue to improve habitat and survey what species are found on the acres and to protect killdeer nesting sites. There are also plan to raise bees near the maintenance facility.
“The open space of a golf course is utilized not only by golfers, but is habitat for a variety of wildlife species,” Christine Kane, chief executive office Audubon International told the Reporter-Herald. “We welcome TPC Colorado‘s commitment to the environment and to managing the golf course with wildlife in mind.
While the measures being taken at TPC Colorado will be good for the environment and for wildlife, the natural habitat also improves the experience for the golfers who tee off with a prime view of the mountains and of Lonetree Reservoir. After all, Cooper told the Reporter-Herald, there’s nothing like seeing majestic bald eagles perched in a tree while you’re golfing.
“It’s just cool,” he added.