Journey Along the Shores – Part 3 (Principles for Greatness)

The Community that surrounds and utilizes Canal Shores wants the property to remain multi-use.  It would be unacceptable to the stakeholders if the Canal Shores property was used solely for golf.  Even for a golf nut like me, reverting the property to a single-use golf facility would make it much less interesting and valuable than it is, or can be.

The question to answer in considering the future of Canal Shores is:

How can Canal Shores be evolved to provide the maximum enjoyment to the maximum number of stakeholders?

Given that that evolution is likely to take place slowly over time, it would be best to put in place a short list of guiding principles to act as “guard rails” moving forward.  Those principles help to ensure effectiveness in moving toward whatever vision for the property emerges from the community and the Board.

Mixed Use Principle

Currently, the value that Canal Shores provides is diminished because it is configured for “shared” use.  Golf and non-golf activities are done on the same ground, often at the same time.  This leads to conflicts of interest, and for the golf staff, course maintenance challenges.  To be truly great, Canal Shores will need to be reconfigured, planned and designed according to the mixed use principle.  This means that the land needs to be segregated with specific areas designated for specific activities.

Those activities break down into the following categories:

  1. Golf (highlighting youth and family golf)
  2. Trails (running, biking, hiking, cross-country skiing)
  3. Open fields (informal sports, picnicking)
  4. Conservation (restoration of native trees and plants, and wildlife habitat)

To designate areas for each of the activity categories means that the golf course would likely occupy a smaller portion of the land.  By applying the mixed-use principle, each category of stakeholder experiences increased enjoyment, as they each have their own space.  Additionally, the golf course superintendent has less of a repair and maintenance burden due to the use of the course for non-golf activities.

On a recent fall day, I headed out to the area of Canal Shores that contains the 15th green, 16th hole, and 17th tee.  This is also an area that is frequently used by dog walkers, and as a cut-through by train commuters and school kids.  The photos below illustrate the issues associated with shared use.

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Open Space PrincipleWideOpenFairways

In his book Wide Open Fairways: A Journey Across the Landscapes of Modern Golf, Bradley Klein lays out a case for the power that a golf course can have to positively impact a community.  It is a place for connection to our fellows and to nature.  It is a place for recreation and re-creation.  Under the stewardship of its new Board, Canal Shores is increasingly having that kind of impact.

Klein’s book title reveals both a commentary on golf course architecture and land use.  Too often, our general love of trees gets expressed in a way that diminishes the utility, and the beauty of an open space.  For more on that subject from a golf course architecture and maintenance perspective, read my previous post The Sweet Sound of Chainsaws.

Referring to the activity category list above, none of those activities is best experienced on land choked by brush and invasive species of trees.  Rather, application of the Open Space principle through a thoughtful program of tree management would provide several benefits:

  • Increased air flow and exposure to sun promotes healthier turf on the golf course, grass in the in areas designated for open field activities, and native prairie grass and flower species in areas designated for conservation.
  • Focus on cultivating native “specimen” trees enhances the beauty of the property and allows for educational opportunities within the community.
  • Opening up of views across the property provides an opportunity to highlight unique features of the property, as well as the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Creating more open space expands the potential for activities by the community.
  • Perhaps most obviously, in Chicagoland, we need all of the sun we can get.  We get plenty of shade from clouds.  We don’t need to artificially create more by allowing the Canal Shores property to turn into a forest.

Some people understandably have an adverse reaction when they see trees and vegetation being cut down.  From my experience though, when that removal is the first step in a broader plan of beautification and sustainability, they very rarely want it put back when they see the final product.

Sustainability Principle

This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.  It is not possible to consider oneself a responsible steward of the land, regardless of the use of that land, without having a commitment to environmental sustainability.

In the case of Canal Shores, greatness goes hand-in-hand with several sustainability objectives:

  • Creation and management of areas specifically designated for native tree, flower, and grass species that also serve as animal and bird habitat.
  • Minimizing water use, including on the golf course.
  • Minimizing or eliminating the use of hazardous fertilizers and pesticides and replacing them with organic equivalents.

Examples abound within the golf industry of sustainable course and land management practices on which Canal Shores can draw.  The recent renovation of Pinehurst #2 is one such example.

It is unlikely that Canal Shores will ever have a large enough budget to allow for expensive maintenance practices anyway, so transforming the land such that it is self-sustaining is more viable, both environmentally and fiscally.

Expertise Principle

There are some things in life that are appropriate for a do-it-yourself approach.  For now, the Canal Shores Board and supporting community are boot-strapping changes to the land.  There have been great strides made already to the condition of the course, and the property in general.

At some point though, in order to become a truly great facility, Canal Shores will have to bring in experts and let those experts do what they do best.  After all, I can treat my own cold, but I probably shouldn’t perform surgery on myself to remove my appendix.  Some things are better left to the experts.

Given the potential scope of an initiative to transform Canal Shores into a sustainable, multi-use, open space that is world-class, the Board and community could greatly benefit from the involvement of several experts:

  • Golf Course Architect
  • Landscape Architect
  • Arborist
  • Native plant experts (i.e. from the Chicago Botanic Garden)
  • Civil Engineer
  • Environmental Sustainability consultant
  • Golf / Multi-use facility developer (e.g. Mike Keiser)

If and when the time comes to create a Master Plan for the property, the input of experts such as these is critical to achieving greatness.  Further, adherence to agreed-upon principles such as those above, serves as insurance that a great outcome is achieved in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

More Journey Along the Shores posts:



Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf

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