Owen Russell, master superintendent from the Markland Wood Golf Club in Etobicoke, Ont., is the 2015 recipient of the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association Environmental Achievement Award.
The award is presented annually to the superintendent whose submission is judged to be the best example of an activity, project or management approach that improves the sustainability of the golf facility.
Consideration is given to initiatives that demonstrate the potential for ongoing benefits, the capture of measurable results and the feasibility of the initiative being applied to other facilities.
The award recipient receives round trip air fare, four nights hotel accommodation and full registration for the CGSA Canadian International Turfgrass Conference and Trade Show, including attendance at the CGSA Awards Luncheon.
The winner also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to FarmLinks, located at Pursell Farms in Alabama, and a Club Car Carryall Turf 252 utility vehicle, electric or gas version.
Owen’s selection for the award is based on a series of related achievements that include Audubon certification for Markland Wood, including significant efforts in both water use and water quality management, the completion of a creek revitalization project, the regeneration of native sycamore trees on the site and the response to two devastating events that had near catastrophic impacts at his golf course.
Markland Wood was Audubon certified in 2009 as the 779th course world-wide and the 49th in Ontario to receive this honour.
This work was supported by the creek revitalization project which was completed in 2008 and which brought together government agencies at three levels, as well as conservation officials to improve water quality and flow in the creek, thus improving the wildlife and fish habitat provided on the golf course.
One of the unique course features at Markland Wood is the presence of a 175 year old sycamore tree.
To preserve the presence of this tree for the future, seeds were harvested and Owen and his staff worked with the City of Toronto forestry service to germinate several sycamore seedlings which were planted in an on-course nursery.
There are now 33 five-year-old sycamore specimens on the golf course.
The remaining components of Owen’s application refer to changes that were made at the course as a result of a catastrophic event. In both cases these events in 2013 and 2014 required significant course upgrades.
The environmental component has led to better course conditions resulting from the recovery efforts that, in turn, result in less disease pressure and less use of pesticides and other inputs.