Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Montgomery County bill overturned

The drafting, development, and potential implementation of Bill 52-14 in Montgomery County, Maryland, has drawn out over the last few years. The bill, which aimed to prohibit the use of certain pesticides on private and County-owned properties throughout Montgomery County and scheduled to take effect in 2018, was recently challenged in the County's Circuit Court and overturned by Judge Terrence McGann. While the golf industry was exempt from the bill, the industry still supported RISE (Responsible Industry for Sound Environment), and much of the local green industry in their fight against halting this bill.

The decision comes after years of advocating and educating the county council, local community members, and attending public hearings discussing the ban's possible consequences, should it be enacted. And while the county council eventually signed the bill into ordinance, a civil action was filed shortly thereafter by Complete Lawn Care et. al and Anita Goodman et. al (consolidated as the plaintiffs) vs. Montgomery County, Maryland (the defendant). 

Judge McGann ultimately ruled that "by generally banning the use of registered pesticides, the Ordinance prohibits and frustrates activity that is intended to be permitted by state law, which conflicts with, and is thus, preempted by state law. The county's ordinance flout's decades of state primacy in ensuring safe and proper pesticide use, undermines the State's system of comprehensive and uniform product approval and regulation, and prohibits products and conduct that have been affirmatively approved and licensed by the State." Thereby it was ordered that the Plaintiffs' motion be granted, and Bill 52-14 should not be allowed to take effect. 

The decision was a big win for the green industry, and stories ran in the Washington Post and Bethesda Beat. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

University of Maryland Field Days attracts a crowd

Research is a huge driver in our business, and it's always neat to learn about the such initiatives at turf schools around the region and country. On July 12, over 100 individuals from various sectors of our industry — superintendents, professors, vendors, National Parks Service, lawn care, and more — gathered at the Paint Branch Turfgrass Research Facility in College Park to hear about the latest and greatest coming out of the University of Maryland.

It was a cool day for mid-July in the Mid-Atlantic region, as it only reached about 94 degrees with high humidity that could make an arm pit stink. But that didn't take away from a great event filled with education, networking, crabs, BBQ, and cornhole. 

With regard to the research, we learned about an array of projects including:
  • Evaluation of new fungicides to control dollar spot disease and reduce summer stress in creeping bentgrass fairways
  • Examining fungicide programs for limiting common diseases on putting green turf in the Mid-Atlantic
  • Evaluation of warm season turfgrasses and Best Management Practices to maximize warm season turf performance
  • Fertility, mowing, weed, and disease management in tall fescue turfgrass
  • Evaluations of cool-season turfgrass cultivars for drought tolerance and low maintenance applications
  • Long-term evaluation of strategies to reduce fertilizer use and runoff from lawn turf
Some of these projects (organic inputs) are a response to ongoing pesticide and fertilizer restrictions within Montgomery County and the state of Maryland. I commend the program for keeping up with this work and going above and beyond to create BMPs for managing lawn turf and gather loads of relevant data that is used to educate policymakers. And it's all pretty interesting work.

If you are interested in learning more about these projects, I'm sure Drs. Carroll, Roberts, and Turner would be happy to talk about their research. Also in the news for the day, the program announced the hiring of Geoff Rinehart, turfgrass lecturer, who was most recently the coordinator of the National Arboretum's 'Grass Roots' initiative, which includes a 1.3-acre interactive turfgrass exhibit. 

Lastly, a big shout out to the boys of 'The Smoke's on U.' This is a group of industry guys who do competitive BBQ competitions, and provided the mouth-watering aromas and meats for the day. Some of the best brisket I've ever had! Their team consists of Michael Bostian (MAAGCS president; superintendent at Waverly Woods GC), Chris Fernandes (superintendent at Northwest GC), Jeff Snyder (Helena), and Dave Haber (Turf Equip. Supply Co.). Great job gentlemen! 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Second hearing takes place with SRBC

The second hearing with the PA Legislature and Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) took place on Monday, June 26 at the Shrewsbury Borough Municipal Building. Approximately 10-15 individuals from the golf industry showed up along with numerous media and local citizens interested in the day's proceedings. In fact, the turnout forced creation of an overflow room where individuals were presented with a live streaming of the action.

The session kicked off with opening remarks from Representative Kristin Phillips-Hill (R) of District 93. Her remarks were followed by a testimony and questioning of SRBC Executive Director Andrew Dehoff. Dehoff noted that the SRBC recently decided to not increase fees for municipal water users, but representatives of the committee seemed not impressed.

The SRBC is facing scrutiny in large part because of the fees they charge for renewing dockets, fines levied for seemingly minor (if not imaginary) offenses, their excess $40 million bank reserves, and the commission's reaping of state employee pension plans, even though they are not an official state agency. The latter point seems to create ambiguity with regards to the standards for which the SRBC must conduct business. For example, even though SRBC's staff participate in the state pension plan, the Commission is not subject to some of the regulations created to promote transparency with state agencies, such as the Rights to Know Act.

Throughout the day, the Legislature heard additional testimonies from Range End Country Club Superintendent Pete Ramsey, and municipalities from Adams, Cumberland, and Lancaster counties. Each testimony given had a similar message, in that the SRBC is overreaching the bounds of the federal-interstate compact that was put in place back in 1970, and costing taxpayers, private businesses, and municipalities undue and exuberant expenses for the access to water.

At the conclusion of the hearing, state representatives assured members of the golf industry and others that they intend to take action on this issue, but that action will take time. Possible outcomes include a reduction or total cut in state funding for the SRBC, or possible legislation that could help reign in the pseudo-power that the SRBC seems to have self-created over the past several decades. With regards to legislation, that route could prove to be a little more tricky, given the compact's original creation was a collaboration with New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the federal government, and creating legislation would be a tricky endeavor of further collaboration between these 3 states.

More comments and perspective on the matter from Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill can be found here.

Attendees of the hearing have a seat in the overflow room to view a live streaming. 

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, PAGCS, 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.