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Sanibel Master Gardeners visit The Sanctuary

By Staff | May 13, 2009

Last Thursday, a group of Sanibel Master Gardeners visited The Sanctuary Golf Club for a tour of the golf course, which highlighted the club’s environmentally conscious efforts in course management. Their tour was hosted by Kyle Sweet, CGCS, who has served as the Golf Course Superintendent for the past 12 years.

The Sanctuary Golf Club is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Golf Course as designated by Audubon International. The club has exhibited continuous efforts in implementing and improving operations in the following six certification areas:

Environmental Planning

Chemical Use Reduction and Safety

Wildlife and Habitat Management

Water Conservation

Water Quality Management

Outreach and Education

The Sanctuary, established nearly 20 years ago, was designed and constructed with great care to protect its native plant and animal habitats. The 120 acre golf course property uses only 85 acres for playable turfgrass and the clubhouse facility landscaping. The remaining 35 acres is comprised of golf course lakes (nine acres), Gopher Tortoise habitat (10 acres) and Preserve areas (12 acres). These areas are successfully managed by golf course staff and are inspected by the City of Sanibel and neighboring J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge for proper management.

Seashore paspalum was installed as the primary turfgrass at the club in 2005. This turfgrass better handles the island’s poor soil and the use of effluent and brackish well water for irrigation. Additionally, Nitrogen fertilization has been reduced by 50 percent over the previously used bermudagrass while at the same time providing an improved playing surface.

Lakeshore and emergent planting areas were displayed on the course and provides an important part of the club’s Water Quality Management program. Spikerush, blackrush, bulrush, leather fern, bucopa, fakahatchee, white fountain grass and spartina bakerii make up most of the lake plantings. The establishment of these plantings is continuing and up to 75 percent of the lake edges will be established with lake plantings following the summer of 2009.

Wildflowers have been a great addition to the course landscape over the past several years. A wildflower blend is used each year that provides multiple flowering varieties during the winter months, while Gaillardia dominates the areas during the hot summer months. These wildflower areas require no fertilization or chemical use and replace the use of expensive high maintenance annuals for desirable seasonal color on the course.

For the third year, The Sanctuary has inspected its Gopher Tortoise habitats. With the help of Kay Sadighi, SCCF volunteer and island resident, the 10 acres of tortoise areas have been GPS mapped for the past three years indicating active and non active burrows. The tortoise populations and distribution are evaluated by Sanctuary staff and the City of Sanibel each year to help in our effective management of these important wildlife areas.

Procedures, programs and technologies continue to evolve at The Sanctuary. This summer, a new irrigation system is being installed that will provide much greater irrigation efficiency. The system will be constructed from HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) and will utilize smaller irrigation heads, closer spacing, adjustable nozzle trajectories, finite watering pattern around lake edges and upgraded computer software. Efficiency will be greatly increased with these upgrades and make even better use of our precious water resources.

Also during the 2009 summer months, 2,000 linear feet of concrete cart path will be removed and replaced with permeable soil material that is currently used in many other areas of the course. The “natural” look of this material combined with its ability to drain, will be a great improvement to the course and create less environmental impact.

Lastly, the golf course is now incorporating the use of chipped palm fronds and tree trimmings for mulch around the edges of the golf course and throughout course planting areas. This material is either created in house or is taken from island contractors and is free from exotics. The reduction in erosion and increased soil moisture retention are two benefits from the use of this natural resource which is being recycled and reused in a beneficial way.

“The Sanctuary is more than just a golf course. Consideration is taken at all points to preserve and protect the properties native habitats. The promotion of the Best Management Practices is evident and are successfully implemented to enhance The Sanctuary,” commented Dr. Phillip Marks, Master Gardener group coordinator. “The Sanctuary is a true representation of Sanibel and shows how a golf course development can become a good neighbor to the community.”

The Sanctuary is thankful for the interest shown by the Master Gardeners group here on Sanibel. We look forward to continuing our environmental efforts and educating interested islanders on today’s responsible golf course management techniques.