Sanctuary’s golf course receives best score for fertilizer, land management
During last week’s City Council meeting, one of the items on the agenda was an update on the status of the Sanibel Golf Course Fertilizer & Lake Management Recommendations, a program aimed at improving water quality on the island. Through a voluntary series of Best Management Practices (BMP), including fertilizer and lake management initiatives, irrigation and fertigation practices and educational efforts at all three local golf courses – The Sanctuary Golf Club, Beachview Golf & Tennis Club and The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club – the city hopes to reduce the amount of impaired water bodies on Sanibel. “Managing stormwater runoff from golf courses on Sanibel is critical to ensure that fertilizer and other chemicals used to maintain turf do not inadvertently impact sensitive areas such as lakes, wetlands and coastal waters,” said James Evans, an Environmental Biologist with the City of Sanibel’s Department of Natural Resources. “While we realize that that each golf course is unique and was designed and permitted to function in a very specific way, all of the golf courses on Sanibel have the potential to discharge into natural waterbodies. As a result, the city has taken additional measures to ensure that water leaving golf course lakes meet the water quality standards of the receiving waters.” On July 19, Vice Mayor Mick Denham announced the results from the latest “report card,” which breaks down 13 individual BMP recommendations from the city at the island’s golf courses. According to the report issued by Evans, The Sanctuary Golf Club was the only golf course in “Full Compliance” with the city’s Golf Course Fertilizer & Lake Management Recommendations, receiving a score of 59 out of a possible 65 points. Denham took time to praise the efforts of The Sanctuary, and in particular its Golf Course Superintendent Kyle Sweet, for making significant advances towards improving water quality at their facility. “We started this program five or six years ago, before the city’s program ever came to be,” said Sweet after the meeting. “This is the future of our industry – the waters found along golf courses need to be protected.” During a tour of The Sanctuary Golf Club last Thursday morning, Sweet pointed out several of the vegetation buffers which have been added throughout the course, along a majority of the water bodies present. He noted that by planting the vegetation along the banks, it provides both a physical and filtering barrier which limits the amount of nutrients running off into the waters on site. Included among the vegetation buffers added at The Sanctuary are fakahatchee, crown grass, bull rush, black rush and spike rush, spartina and bacopa. Their report card included top scores for requiring a minimum of 30 percent of the littoral zone of each lake on the golf course to be planted and maintained with submerged or emergent aquatic vegetation, limiting soluble nitrogen applications, maintain an annual fertilizer and copper sulfate log – made available to city staff – and reuse water setbacks 25 feet from all water bodies. “The golf industry, as a whole, has really embraced introducing better environmental practices through seminars, training and responsible management,” added Sweet, who has work at the golf course for almost 15 years. “We are adopting new practices almost as fast as these rules are being proposed. We prefer to stay one step ahead of the game.” In addition to increasing the amount of vegetative filters along the course, The Sanctuary has removed more than 32,000 square feet of impermeable golf cart paths throughout the facility. “All of these measures easily could’ve not been done if we didn’t have the support of our board and our members,” Sweet explained. “Everybody has really embraced this. It’s really great to have the support of everyone at the club.” Stormwater runoff from urban landscapes – including golf courses – are a major source of nutrients contributing to algae blooms and water quality impairments in Florida. Poor water quality not only impacts wildlife habitat and the quality of life for island residents, but it can directly impact our local economy by reducing property values and the overall experience of visitors to our island. The City of Sanibel has taken several measures to improve water quality throughout the island. These measures include acquisition of environmentally-sensitive lands, mangrove protection, native plant protection and sod limitations, beach and dune protection, conversion from septic to central sewer, responsible development through reductions in impervious surfaces and onsite stormwater management, implementation of the National Pollutant and Discharge Eliminations System Program, island-wide water quality monitoring, adoption of an urban fertilizer ordinance, and nutrient and lake management recommendations for golf courses. While the city has taken a very proactive role in improving water quality, the Sanibel River and many residential and golf course lakes on Sanibel remain “impaired” for nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club received a report card score of 41. Beachview Golf & Tennis Club received a report card score of 37. Both courses were determined to be “Not In Compliance” with the city’s Golf Course Fertilizer & Lake Management Recommendations.