Friday, June 16, 2017

SRBC hearing takes place, another hearing scheduled

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) is under scrutiny by Pennsylvania legislators. The Commission, which charges consumptive users (including golf courses) for withdrawing water from the basin, is suspected of overreaching their authority. For more on the history and workings of the SRBC, check out this previous blog post

On June 12, there was a hearing scheduled to listen to testimonies from consumptive users, and question the operations of the SRBC. Pete Ramsey, superintendent at Range End Country Club, was on hand to give testimony on behalf of the golf industry. The following is his first-hand take on the outcomes of the hearing, as well as information for the next scheduled hearing on June 26. 

Pete said:

The hearing held on June 12 went very well. Members of Central Penn GCSA, as well as Keystone, were in attendance. The Pennsylvania Legislature heard testimony from Andrew Dehoff of SRBC, two municipal water suppliers, as well as myself. There were 17 State Representatives present. The Reps questioned Dehoff on excessive charges, SRBC’s mission, redundancies with DEP, staff compensation and benefits, intimidation tactics and overreach. The committee appears to have a unified opinion the commission has gone way beyond the boundaries of the compact of 1968. 

My testimony was very well received and the meeting exceeded my expectations. This issue is picking up steam fast and now is our time to be heard. I was asked to testify again at the next meeting. Any input you have would be appreciated. Please call or email me. The biggest impact we can have is attendance to the upcoming meeting in Shrewsbury. I need 50+ people to show up. There will be ample opportunity to speak one-on-one with the representatives after the meeting. They have a lot of questions and are very empathetic to consumptive users. Please clear your schedules and attend the meeting! The next meeting of the Pennsylvania Legislature is Monday, June 26 at 9:00 a.m. in the Shrewsbury Borough Municipal Building, 35 West Railroad Avenue, Shrewsbury, PA 17361.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

First Green takes off in Philly

If you haven't read or heard anything about First Green, take a look at this previous blog post, because this STEM-based education program is spreading through GCSAA chapters and schools across the country, turning golf links into teaching labs. Its most recent success took place at Philadelphia Cricket Club on June 6, when GCSAA Class A member Dan Meersman helped organize one epic field trip.

Dan, the director of grounds at Philly Cricket, was quick to praise the allied associations that had a hand in hosting this all-encompassing field day for the students from Whitemarsh Elementary. During the two-hour visit, students participated in labs focused on turfgrass, soils, golf, water, trees and putting.

What also made this field trip so impressive was the breadth of experience represented by individuals across golf and even non-golf disciplines. In attendance were representatives from Philly Cricket, Golf Association of Philadelphia, Philadelphia PGA, GCSAA, USGA, Temple University, Morris Arboretum, First Tee and a representative from the local conservation district. Wow!

Not only did this day do so much for the 90 students in attendance, but it was also fantastic outreach for the club and industry as a whole. The folks from "Inside Golf," a local golf show that airs in the Philadelphia market, were there to film footage and interview participants. And with that footage, "Inside Golf" will feature the day's activities in a story that will air in the coming weeks on the Comcast Network.

Check out the pictures below for a look at all the fun and educational activities during the Philadelphia Cricket Club event:

Friday, May 26, 2017

First Tee STEM Links seeks to grow

First Tee is an organization with international reach whose name is practically synonymous with golf. As stated, its mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. And one way they are looking to achieve this mission is by leveraging golf to teach Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

When you think about it, these four disciplines are widely used throughout the inception, design and maintenance of a golf course. Our practicing GCSAA members are experts in applying this knowledge to their work, so whom better than to teach STEM education on the golf course than superintendents? These on-course laboratories, dubbed "STEM Links," teach a curriculum centered around soil science and agronomy, ecosystem management, plant identification, water conservation, applied sensory technology, applied math and of course, golf!

Our friends at the Mid-Atlantic Association of Golf Course Superintendents (MAAGCS) have taken initiative to collaborate with The First Tee of Greater Baltimore to bring this program to the Mid-Atlantic. On May 23, almost 30 students attended a field trip at Waverly Woods Golf Course, home to MAAGCS president Michael Bostian, to take part in the second field trip of its kind co-hosted by these two chapters. And to say the event was a hit, well, just take a look below at the candid photographs captured throughout the day.

The field trip works by setting up "lab" stations around the golf course, each with a specific teaching topic. At this particular field trip, we had four lab stations: soils and turf ID, calculating area, water management, and golf driving range (you gotta have some fun!). The students are split in to four groups and spend 25 minutes at each lab station. While First Tee coaches typically handle the golf lab, superintendents are relied on to teach the applied sciences at the other three lab stations.

On hand to observe the day's activities was Benna Cail, First Tee's senior director of outreach programs & implementation. Benna noted the strong relationships First Tee has within schools across the country thanks to their National School Program, in which First Tee brings its curriculum to more than 9,000 elementary gym classes. Through those programs, First Tee is able to leverage its relationships in schools to organize field trips for the First Tee STEM Links Program. In essence, First Tee's multi-faceted programming creates different interfaces in which it can engage young people and get them interested in the game of golf. Whether it's STEM education or a gym class on the driving range, First Tee is finding ways to reach the future players and professionals who will carry the sport forward.

And that vision aligns nicely with The Toro Company, which has been a longtime partner of the First Tee and graciously provides funding for a grant program that helps First Tee chapters offset the costs of hosting a STEM Links field trip. However, they still need superintendents to serve as teaching experts. That's where our GCSAA chapters come in. The expertise of our members is a key element to fulfilling this program's potential. While the First Tee Chapters can handle the logistics of organizing the field trip, GCSAA members will be relied upon to help teach labs. And really, it seems to come quite naturally for our members to teach kids about the varying qualities between turfgrass species, or the critical threshold for moisture in greens, or the wildlife habitat areas around the course. It's a win-win!

So let's recap: Your local First Tee chapter organizes the field trip. Your local GCSAA chapter helps teach the on-course labs. Students come, students learn, students play some golf, everyone wins. Nice and tidy. 

Call to Action: Chapters or members interested in engaging The First Tee STEM Links program can contact Benna Cail at or reach out to your local First Tee chapter.

Students gather around in anticipation of the day's activities. 

Students in awe of a sprinkler head turned on through a walkie-talkie

Checking out the green's soil profile

Feeling the texture of the soil

Checking the moisture in the putting green

Learning moisture thresholds

Keep measuring

An end to a fun-filled day

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Advocacy initiatives abound throughout the region

Spring is a beautiful time. It's an exciting time, and a busy time. Superintendents through the region are working diligently to prepare their venues for a successful golf season as we usher in the month of May. And while the demands of the job this time of a year require a big time commitment, I've been thoroughly impressed with our members' dedication to participate in numerous advocacy initiatives that aim to advance our game and our profession.

Just last week superintendents from across the country joined forces with our allied bodies to gather in our Nation's Capital for National Golf Day. This was the 10-year anniversary of this event. New this year, attendees participated in a robust community service project, helping to polish up the National Mall. The event was a huge success as golf's leaders sacrificed their time to serve in an arena unrelated to golf. 

Then, for the official National Golf Day event on April 26, we took to Capitol Hill to share with Congressional leaders the benefits of golf. We shared with them the economic impact of golf –
almost 70 billion dollars across the U.S. Likewise, we promoted the charitable impact of golf – almost 4 billion dollars annually, mostly to charities outside of golf, and more than all other major spectator sports combined. And the environmental and physical benefits our courses provide. Furthermore, we discussed our position on legislation that affects our ability to do business – namely WOTUS, H-2B, and more. 

But that isn't all that is going on in the spirit of advocacy. This week, I will be participating in the 2nd First Green field trip hosted by the Mid-Atlantic AGCS. Our initial field trip was hosted last fall at Westminster National Golf Course in Westminster, Maryland. That event was such a success that the MAAGCS board of directors almost immediately got the ball rolling on hosting another field trip this spring. Not only does this program promote STEM learning in the context of golf course management, it also allows us to showcase our profession and the game of golf to young inquisitive minds who may find their interests piqued by participating in such an event. 

Later this month, MAAGCS is at it again with their second First Tee STEM field trip, hosted at Waverly Woods Golf Course. First Tee STEM is also a program that aims to leverage golf course management to teach students about STEM education and introduce them to the game. 

All these initiatives highlight our commitment to growing the game and managing our government affairs. I am also working with chapters through the region to continue our development of BMP programs for each state as we strive to reach the goal of 50 states with BMP programs in place by the year 2020. 

Thank you to leaders throughout the region and industry who see the value in advocacy and sacrifice their time for the benefit of not only our industry, but also the benefit for others outside the industry that these initiatives help serve. If you would like to get more involved in these projects, please give me a call or reach out to your local chapter. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hearing scheduled to challenge Montgomery County pesticide ban

On May 17 at 9:30 a.m., the Circuit Court for Montgomery County will hear oral arguments challenging part of bill 52-14, which prohibits the use of certain “cosmetic” pesticides on private lawns and is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2018. Although golf received an exemption from this ban, the industry still needs to have a bead on such legislation that bans products that are otherwise approved by the EPA for labeled use.

The hearing is expected to last about 1.5 hours, and Judge Terrence McGann will hear arguments. The plaintiffs include six local businesses and seven residents. On January 18, the judge ordered that this case be consolidated with a similar case filed by Scotts, et al.

RISE (Responsible Industry for Sound Environment) has been organizing a grassroots effort to oppose this bill since the bill’s introduction back in 2015. While the bill was ultimately passed later that year, RISE has since been working with local stakeholders to challenge it.

The complaint put forward by the plaintiffs is that the bill is pre-empted by state law, which makes the ban illegal. Likewise, the plaintiffs cite that this bill, if it were to go in to effect, could damage homeowners, state-certified pesticide applicators, small businesses and their employees, and others who have depended on these pesticides to maintain healthy lawns and control insect and weed pests.

Maryland law comprehensively regulates the sale and use of pesticides across the state, and the pesticides banned in bill 52-14 have been licensed and approved by state regulators. Furthermore, the Montgomery County Council passed this bill despite having been advised by the Office of the Maryland Attorney General that the ban was likely preempted by state law.

RISE advises that, while appearing in the court room is different than appearing in a county hearing, it is important that concerned parties have a strong and visible presence of residents and businesses in the courtroom to support the plaintiffs. The County Circuit Courthouse is located at 50 Maryland Avenue, across from the County Council Building and next to the Executive Building in downtown Rockville. Judge McGann’s courtroom is 8C on the 8th floor of the North Tower of the courthouse.

Depending on the court’s schedule, a decision on the case is expected sometime in August. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pennsylvania chapters collaborate for BMPs

Implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs)/BMP based plans are the standard route for protecting or improving the environment and water quality. Spend any time on the EPA’s website and you’ll find BMPs for agriculture, protecting pollinators, watershed models and determining nutrient loads. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) relies heavily on BMPs within agriculture as well as many other industries which have their BMPs. They are the actions by which progress is achieved.

The term “best management practice” has many different connotations. Best Management Practices can range from “structural or engineered features” such as a detention pond or vegetated swales to “non-structural” agronomic practices [fertilization, integrated pest management (IPM), and irrigation] that are deemed “best” for the management of a particular venue. Most often, BMPs within the regulatory framework are linked to the passing of the 1973 Clean Water Act (CWA) by the United States Congress. Section 303(d) of the CWA requires states to establish Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for impaired waters on a prioritized schedule. TMDLs establish the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can assimilate without causing a violation of water quality standards. Considering the proactive nature of the golf course industry and our commitment to environmental stewardship, BMP development efforts help us adhere to TMDL standards, but they also do more.

In golf, BMPs represent a framework for a sustainable approach to golf course management. As GCSAA has established a goal of helping all 50 states create BMP models by 2020, Pennsylvania is gearing up for the process.

Like some know, we have a BMP manual that was constructed back in 2009, but with little buy-in from our members across the state. This time around, as we work on “version 2” that can be implemented with GCSAA’s new robust BMP template tool, we will work through the process with member engagement, member updates, and representation from our state regulatory agency, the Department of Environmental Protection. Representation from DEP is important so that they are bought in to our BMPs, and have documentation for how golf is addressing environmental management, TMDLs and the like. Furthermore, we will need representation from our land-grant University, Penn State, to review the science behind the BMPs and validate their credibility.

As we move forward, we will establish a BMP steering committee comprised of representation from all six chapters, myself, a PSU Turf Professor, and a representative from DEP. GCSAA will be distributing grants later this year to help pay for the development and publication of these BMPs, and PA plans on submitting a grant application. Fortunately, the costs associated with BMP development will be greatly minimized with the help of the GCSAA BMP Template, which is already populated with dozens and dozens of BMPs designed for golf course management.

With BMPs providing the framework for sustainability in the future, it gives us one more tool to show our communities, stakeholders, customers, and governments that we are proud land managers with a commitment to sustainability.

Note: Written in part by Mark Johnson, GCSAA Associate Director of Environmental Programs

Saturday, March 4, 2017

VGCSA representatives trek to state capitol

Posting courtesy of David Norman, VGCSA

Recently, VGCSA representatives Mark Cote, Scott Mauldin, Pete Stephens, David Norman and Tyler Eastham visited with state senators and delegates at the General Assembly. They visited each representative's office, offering a gift bag with important information about our association and the industry. A thumb drive with the BMP, our mission statement and a postcard highlighting our stewardship were all included.

After the visit to the General Assembly, the VGCSA representatives headed to the House of Delegates and Senate Chambers. They were introduced to the floor by Senator David Marsden who noted the $2.5 billion economic impact to the state and the 30,000 Virginians that are employed by the industry. The annual trip is important to building and strengthening the relationships with our elected officials.

Scott Mauldin, CGCS, Mark Cote and Pete Stephens at the Rotunda 

VGCSA President Mark Cote visits with Senator David Marsden