Monday, October 16, 2017

Board outreach visit to Mid-Atlantic region

Each year, the GCSAA Board of Directors work with field staff to schedule outreach visits among regions in which that particular board member does not reside. The goals of these visits are to reach superintendents, learn about local initiatives and challenges, engage students, engage chapters, and hear from members.

On October 2-5, GCSAA Director Kevin Sunderman, superintendent at Isla Del Sol Yacht and Country Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, visited the Mid-Atlantic region for four days of a packed agenda. In total, we visited four members at their facilities, met and spoke with students at two turf clubs, and attended two chapter meetings and a chapter board meeting.

Our four site visits peppered the stretch between D.C. and State College as we made it a priority to reach students at two universities – UMD and Penn State. From members, we continue to hear that labor is a major challenge around our region,, as well as across the country. GCSAA continues to engage on several fronts to address this issue, including H2B advocacy in government affairs, engaging youth through First Green, and engaging teenagers through Future Farmers of America.

Our time with the students was fantastic. These young people are excited about their upcoming internships or full-time entrance into the workforce and their energy is contagious. We learned from students about their future goals and Kevin talked a little about how GCSAA can help them achieve those goals. After learning from these students, I can tell you the future is in good hands.

At two chapter meetings in Central PA and West Virginia, we interacted with members as Kevin was able to speak to the groups about current GCSAA initiatives and how to get engaged. At the event in Central PA (in partnership with Wee One Foundation), over 100 participants came together to support a member who had recently lost their 13-year-old son to cancer. These are heartfelt moments that make you appreciate the camaraderie in the industry, and I know that it was an emotional day for many. What a way to support our own.

In West Virginia, we had an opportunity to meet with the chapter's board of directors to talk about the BMP project. As we continue to build BMPs across the country, buy-in from superintendents and our state regulatory agencies is absolutely critical. I'm excited to work with the group in West Virginia to begin the process of building our BMP model for the wild and wonderful mountainous state.

On our trip, we also had the opportunity to engage GCSAA members and others through GCSAA's new social media platform, Snapchat (the username is "GCSAAofficial"). It was a fun opportunity to highlight the week, engage some of the younger generation, and really have some fun with communication.

Thanks to everyone who was involved in our trip across the region!

UMD Turf Students getting geared up for the Turf Bowl. 

GCSAA Director Kevin Sunderman (L) and UMD Golf Course Superintendent Brendan Rapp (R). 
Kevin Sunderman speaks to the folks of WVGCSA.

Kevin Sunderman (L) and Renditions Golf Course Superintendent Joe Haskins (R).

Kevin Sunderman addresses the Penn State Turf Club.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Mid-Atlantic roundup

September in the Mid-Atlantic region ushers in an array of events, including annual meetings for chapters, educational expos, networking events, and the start of local conferences. This is just the beginning of an always busy season, and not to be forgotten, the growing season is ending on a fiery note. Most courses in the region haven't seen a drop of rain for the last two weeks, as daytime temperatures are consistently in the 80s. But we aren't far off from our first hard frost, which will surely slow down the mower fleet. Here is a brief recap of what's been going on around the region:

On September 21 and 22, turfgrass stakeholders from around the country gathered at our U.S. National Arboretum for the National Turfgrass Stakeholder Workshop, which sought to identify turfgrass research needs. There were participants from various sectors of the industry, including superintendents, professors, industry Ph.D.s, USGA agronomists, etc. Attendees heard presentations about current and innovative research initiatives. Likewise, participants worked in groups to identify areas of need with turfgrass research and rank those needs based on priority. To name a couple, water use and reduction, and home-owner education were mentioned as areas of improvement.

On Thursday, September 21, folks from around the turf industry gathered at "Valentine East" for the inaugural Turfgrass Innovation and Discovery Expo. Throughout the day, attendees heard talks about various technologies currently available and forthcoming including GPS sprayers, soil sensor technology, fertilizer technology, solar pond aeration, mower technology, and more. Time was also provided for participants to talk with vendors and discover some of the projects undertaken at Valentine East. Dr. Fidanza said he hopes to grow the event in the coming years, and that it will be hosted every-other year, offsetting the every-other-year schedule for Field Days at Penn State University Park.

On Monday, September 25, members and guests of the Mountain & Valley GCSA gathered for the scholarship fundraiser at Scotch Valley CC. We had a good turnout, with about 15 teams on hand for the day's event. The day was hot, but the course was in awesome condition and the event turned out great.

On September 28, I will head to the Equipment Managers meeting at Congressional CC, and network with new and future members of GCSAA's Equipment Manager membership. Next week, I will be hosting a special visitor in the region, Kevin Sunderman, GCSAA director and director of grounds at Isla Del Sol Yacht and Country Club. Over the course of next week, we will visit some members, gather with a couple turf clubs in the region, and attend events in Central Pennsylvania and Charleston, West Virginia. We hope to see you out and about!

L-R: Matt Bohinc, Carl Michael, & Kim Pagett prepare for the MVGCSA Scholarship Fundraiser at Scotch Valley CC.
Matt Shaffer addresses the audience at the "Valentine East" Turfgrass Innovation & Discovery Expo.
Attendees listen at the Turfgrass Innovation & Discovery Expo.

Dr. Fidanza speaks at the Turfgrass Innovation & Discovery Expo.
Participants discuss research needs at the National Turfgrass Stakeholder Workshop.

A small group identifies research priorities at the National Turfgrass Stakeholder Workshop. 

Participants enjoy dinner at the Stakeholder Workshop. 

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: