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Journey Along the Shores – Part 19 (All About the Trees)

Over the past several years, countless hours have been spent in the field and in meetings to assess the state of our tree population, and to chart a course forward toward making that population larger and significantly healthier.

Our findings will not be a surprise to anyone who has taken the time to look closely at the ecological picture at Canal Shores.  In many places, the property is a disaster area, and it has been for many years.  I am grateful to the members of the community who decided that the “gem in their backyards” was in distress and stepped in to save it.  For those who have not yet done so, now would be a good time.  We have a plan, and there are opportunities to target contributions of volunteer time and money to revitalize Canal Shores, including its trees.


ASSESSMENT

We are not short of trees at Canal Shores, but as it turns out, we are short on good ones.  Planning Resources Inc. sent their Arborist out to do a tree survey.  They were looking for valuable trees to keep and incorporate into the ecological master plan for the property (full Plan coming soon…).  “Valuable” is defined as important native species, or large, healthy trees that are not invasive species.  The survey found that Canal Shores has 904 trees on our 82 acres.

At first glance, that number might seem big, but it really isn’t.  Given that the golf course occupies less than half that total acreage, a healthy tree population would number in the thousands.

PRI tagged every valuable tree they could find.  I encourage anyone walking or playing the course to look for tags to better understand which trees are desirable, and sadly how few of them we have.

CanalShores14-TaggedTree_111917.jpg

Tagged trees are numbered and catalogued for reference, and have been geo-located onto the map that follows.  The map, along with the associated illustrations, is a great reference for learning more about where our desirable trees are, and what they are.  I have learned a great deal about trees from PRI’s work, and I have started to share that knowledge with my boys.

Valuable trees are circled, and “key” trees (meaning high value species and of size) are in orange.

GREEN BAY TO LINCOLN

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LINCOLN TO CENTRAL

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CENTRAL TO ISABELLA

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ISABELLA TO LINDEN

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LINDEN TO SHERIDAN

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INVASIVES

Invasive species are making Canal Shores unhealthy.  I am far from being an expert, but what I have learned is that a healthy ecosystem has layers, each layer ideally containing a variety of species:

  • An herbaceous (ground) layer of grasses, flowers and groundcover that are the home to pollinators and other important insects and animals.
  • An understory (shrub) layer of small trees and shrubs that provide food and habitat for birds.
  • A canopy of trees, of varying species and age.

The primary problem that Canal Shores has with its invasives is in the understory, specifically with buckthorn and honeysuckle.  That problem has manifested in three ways:

  • First, within the understory, buckhthorn and honeysuckle are extremely aggressive competitors and they have left us with almost no other shrubs, greatly decreasing biodiversity.
  • Second, they form dense thickets, starving the herbaceous layer of sunlight.  Where buckthorn grows densely, there is bare ground underneath which also creates erosion problems on the canal banks.
  • Finally, the buckthorn and honeysuckle leave no space for desirable trees to regenerate.

There are good reasons why it is illegal to sell or plant buckthorn or honeysuckle in the state of Illinois.  They are parasitic plants that take over and leave the areas they populate in much worse health.  To say that one likes buckthorn is the equivalent of liking a tapeworm.

IL Exotic Weed Act.png

In fighting buckthorn at Canal Shores, I have learned first hand the many ways that it fights back.  It has whacked me in the face, hit me in the head, poked me in the eye, cut up my arms and legs, and more.  Suffice it to say, I have never been a fan.  However, when I watched the video below, I was tipped over the edge.

Not only is buckthorn bad for the other plants around it, but the berries produced by the females have a laxative effect on birds, while providing no nutritional content.  Are you kidding me?  This demon weed must go.

Many thanks to Brandon from Ringers Landscaping for allowing us to share his webinar.  I highly recommend watching at least the first 18 minutes.


STEWARDSHIP

During the course of this lengthy process of assessment and learning through pilot projects, I have heard and read statements like “Save the buckthorn!” and “Can’t we just let nature take care of itself?”.  These statements are born of ignorance and are in direct conflict with the principle of land stewardship for which our community is responsible at Canal Shores.

Abdication of our stewardship responsibility has directly resulted in ecological degradation.  In the hundreds of hours that I have spent on the ground with fellow Buckthorn Warriors, I have seen what this degradation looks like.  We have saved desirable trees that were literally being choked to death by invasive vines.  We have watched in disappointment as a large, unhealthy tree falls over in a storm, taking with it several desirable trees that we hoped to save.  We have seen the bare ground under buckthorn thickets suffering from stormwater erosion.  And we have seen newly cleared areas spring back to life with grasses and flowers when sunlight is allowed to reach the ground.

The results of doing nothing are obvious and incontrovertible.  It doesn’t work.  Based on our learnings and the counsel of experts, we are now moving forward.  Special thanks to Grounds Committee member Matt Rooney who drafted our Tree Policy, and then painstakingly revised it to incorporate feedback from numerous parties.  Click here to read the Canal Shores Tree Policy, which has been approved by our Board of Directors.

What does this look like on the ground?  Before areas can be revitalized, clearing has to take place.  We are prioritizing spots that directly impact the golf course – tees, greens, fairway landing areas are all of highest priority as we want to enhance the turf quality, playability and visual beauty for our paying customers.  We have selected specific trees (e.g. black cherries) to add to the tagged group for preservation, and buckthorn has been painted for removal.

CanalShores14-MarkedBuckthorn_111917.JPG

The work is well underway on holes 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12-18.  We have applied for a burn permit from the EPA to deal with the cut brush.  We are also recruiting a Landscape Architecture / Ecology intern whose focus will be on maintenance of cleared areas as well as site-specific habitat design and implementation.


CONCLUSION

Decades of neglect and mismanagement are not going to be undone overnight.  However, we have made a beginning and we will continue working toward our goal of making Canal Shores a healthy ecosystem that includes a variety of native and other desirable trees.

We hope that all members of the Evanston-Wilmette community join us.  Check the Greens & Grounds blog for dates of upcoming volunteer work sessions, or email me at jwizay1493@hotmail.com to be added to the Buckthorn Warriors mailing list.  Inquiries about tree donations can be made with Dan Bulf (dbulf@canalshores.org).  This is a big job, but together, we can do it.

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More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2018 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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THE ENTIRE JOURNEY ALONG THE SHORES

“How did you get involved in this, anyway?”  It’s a question that I am frequently asked.  It’s not a sexy answer, but the truth is that I got curious about what was happening at Canal Shores, and so I showed up.  Then I put my hand up and volunteered.  Giving back to the game and my community was tremendously satisfying, and I kept doing it.  The rest has unfolded organically.

As our Journey Along the Shores continues, I will post periodic updates.  As always, we are grateful for the support, encouragement and contributions of golf geeks everywhere.


MOST RECENT UPDATE FROM THE SHORES

PART 27 – COMPLICATED, BUT PERFECT 

An idea about inclusiveness and enjoyment of the game of golf was born in our community this summer. That idea was transformed into a reality at Canal Shores by an unlikely team of high school students, a former social worker, a blogger, a community leader, golf instructors, parents and 18 brave kids who had never set foot on a golf course before. Read more…


MORE FROM THE JOURNEY ALONG THE SHORES

PART 26 – A WEE CHANGE 

As we continue to tinker with Canal Shores, we understand the Good Doctor’s conditioned expectations. Each change we make to improve the course yields mostly praise, but also the predictable batch of complaints. The creation of the Wee Burn short of the 17th green is no exception, providing an interesting look into player perceptions and reactions to change. Read more…

PART 25 – THE WRAP-AROUND

Much like the modern PGA Tour, the work season at Canal Shores never ends. Long after players have hung up their clubs in Chicagoland, our staff and volunteers keep plugging away on course improvements, deterred only by blizzards, bitter cold or torrential rains. Progress continues all the way through to spring cleanup. Read more…

PART 24 – EVENT-FULL SEASONS

With each passing year, Canal Shores gets busier. The course is seeing more play and it would seem that the Evanston-Wilmette community has gotten markedly golfier. That is terrific progress from my geeky perspective. However, the activity at Canal Shores does not begin and end with golf, which is one of the many ways that our community course delivers value. Read more…

PART 23 – THE YEAR CANAL SHORES BECAME A GOLF COURSE

Prior to this year, Canal Shores was a place where it was great fun to play golf, but it wasn’t much of a golf course.  It was a novelty that captured our hearts.  This year, Canal Shores became a golf course.  Read more…

PART 22 – REVERSE JANS RECAP

Canal Shores is about coming together, having fun through laid back competition, and caring for a special community asset.  That is the spirit in which the Honourable Company of Reverse Jans Golfers convened for its third annual gathering and golf outing in December of last year.  Read more…

PART 21 – BURN BABY BURN

There’s a new boss at Canal Shores – a Burn Boss, that is – and his name is Steve Neumann.  Being a geeky man after my own heart, he fulfilled an ambition of becoming an officially certified Burn Boss by participating in training with the Forest Preserve District.  Perhaps the coolest title I have heard to date.  Read more…

PART 20 – SPRING PROJECT

We realize that the combination of these two issues is leaving a poor impression on visiting players.  The closing stretch is where a course should impress.  In the case of Canal Shores, it disappoints.  Therefore, we have decided to make our spring project for 2018 a Closing Stretch Makeover.  Read more…

PART 19 – ALL ABOUT THE TREES

Over the past several years, countless hours have been spent in the field and in meetings to assess the state of our tree population, and to chart a course forward toward making that population larger and significantly healthier.  Our findings will not be a surprise to anyone who has taken the time to look closely at the ecological picture at Canal Shores.  In many places, the property is a disaster area, and it has been for many years.  Read more…

PART 18 – ANNUAL VOLUNTEER RECAP

‘Tis the season for giving thanks.  My geeky heart is filled with gratitude for all of our volunteers who come out and give their time and labor to polish up this community golf gem of ours.  Our primary focus in 2017 was on the south end of the property – the Metra Loop.  We continue to bootstrap pilot projects to attempt to give our players and the community a sense of the potential for Canal Shores.  Read more…

PART 17 – 14TH HOLE BUNKER REBUILD

While the planning process continues to unfold, we are on the lookout for little ways to make the course more interesting and fun.  The golf geeks were itching for a creative bunker project to finish off the year, and we found one on the 14th.  With help from our volunteers and support from local Superintendents, we knocked the project out in two days.  Read more…

PART 16 – SUPER CHANGES

There is only one constant in life – change.  Life at Canal Shores is no different.  The course continues to evolve, as do our plans for its future.  This season, those plans changed when we learned that our team was not going to be the same.  Tom Tully, our Superintendent, decided to relocate to Colorado.  He will be missed.  After a brief moment of panic, the search for Tom’s replacement began.  Our Board President Chris Carey and Grounds Chair Steve Neumann shoulder the work, and scored us a winner – Tony Frandria.  Read more…

PART 15b – METRA CORNER UPDATE

After all of the improvements that we have made to the 15th hole, it is really shining right now.  I took a quick walk this morning to grab final photos of the bunkers in the bright summer sunshine to complete this update on our work on #15.  Read more…

PART 15a – METRA CORNER MAKEOVER

Our attention has now shifted to the south end of the property, or what we call the “Metra Corner”.  This is the area that includes the 15th and 16th holes, which interact with the canal and the commuter train tracks.  It is also a point of major foot traffic, with commuters and school kids passing through the course in the morning, afternoon, and evening.  Read more…

PART 14b – MORE VOLUNTEER POWER

What a difference a year makes.  In my previous JATS post, I shared about the efforts of a group of our volunteers – the NSCDS Boys.  They, along with dozens of other volunteers, contributed hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to the successful completion of our makeover of the 12th green complex.  Read more…

PART 14a – THE POWER OF VOLUNTEERS

I want to highlight the contributions of four students from North Shore Country Day School.  NSCDS has a senior service requirement.  CJ, Sam, Dillon, and AJ came to us and asked if they could do their service hours at Canal Shores.  It just so happened that we were hoping to add a native plant and habitat area behind the 12th green.  Read more…

PART 13 – 4 COURSE CONCEPT REVISITED

Our Lead Architect David Zinkand has completed his Preliminary Design of the new Canal Shores (below), bringing to life the 4 Course Concept that we have been discussing.  It has certainly come a long way since the idea’s inception.  Read more…

PART 12 – GOOD GEEKY FUN

Yesterday was one of the best golf days I have ever had.  With a little nudge from some of the members of GolfClubAtlas, Pat Goss and I put together a day for good, geeky golf fun.  It began with an outing for the Honourable Company of Reverse Jans Golfers, and ended with a Gathering of golf enthusiasts to share food, drinks, and the spirit of this great game.  Read more…

PART 11 – BLUE SKY FINDINGS

Over the summer, the initiative to transform Canal Shores along the lines I outlined in my previous posts (4 Course Concept & Inspiration for the New Canal Shores) gained significant momentum.  That gain is primarily attributable to my good fortune in connecting with Pat Goss.  Read more…

PART 10 – OFF-SEASON PROJECTS

We will be continuing the process of “reclaiming the ridge” that we started on hole #3 earlier this year.  In that pilot project, we learned several lessons about how best to fight invasive tree species like buckthorn, while improving playability for golfers.  Read more…

PART 9 – INSPIRATION FOR THE NEW CANAL SHORES

In recent Journey Along the Shores posts, I have been focused on what we are doing to improve the course now.  With Autumn quickly approaching, stay tuned for news on the next batch of improvement projects.  Let’s take a break from the present, and revisit the subject of the future of Canal Shores.  Read more…

PART 8 – MORE TREE MANAGEMENT

There is a tremendous amount of work left to be done on clean-up and clearing of invasive tree species, like buckthorn.  Removal is only part of the process though.  Each cleared area needs to be enhanced with new vegetation and trees.  Read more…

PART 7 – PILOT PROJECTS

These are exciting times at Canal Shores.  Momentum is building, as talented and committed people continue to lend their support.  The beginnings of a new Master Plan for the facility are taking shape.  It is still too early to share details here, but stay tuned.  Read more…

PART 6 – 4 COURSE CONCEPT

Cutting down trees, hacking out brush, and hauling debris for hours on end gives a man plenty of time to think.  During one of these cleanup sessions recently, many of the thoughts that had been swirling around in my head crystalized into a new vision for what might be done with the golf portion of the Canal Shores property.  Read more…

PART 5 – TREE MANAGEMENT

Our tree management program has begun in earnest at Canal Shores.  Our strategy, which is built up on the Wide Open Spaces principle, is two-phased: Remove overgrowth and invasive species; Highlight remaining specimen trees.  Read more…

PART 4 – FIRST STEPS

The Canal Shores Grounds Committee spent the winter sharing ideas, from the blue sky big picture all the way down to the nitty gritty details.  Spring has sprung, and it is time to get into action.  While our long-term Master Plan is in the skunkworks stage, we decided that we still want to move forward with making the cost-effective improvements that we can.  Read more…

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.  Read more…

PART 2 – THE LAND

Canal Shores is not just a golf course.  It is a 35 acre multi-use green space on the banks of the North Shore Channel of the Chicago River.  It spans Wilmette and Evanston, and several streets cut across it.  It is surrounded primarily by residential property, but it winds through the neighborhoods in a unique fashion.  Canal Shores is much more an integrated part of its neighborhood than a typical golf course in a residential property.  Read more…

PART 1 – JOURNEY ALONG THE SHORES

A few years back, the golf course was on the verge of closing.  It was deeply in debt, and was barely playable due to lack of maintenance.  A group of concerned members of the Evanston-Wilmette community intervened, poured their energy into the course for two years, and turned it around.  With respect to finances and facilities, Canal Shores is poised to enter a new phase.  Read more…

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 8 (More Tree Management)

In a previous Journey Along the Shores post, I shared our initial approach to managing the trees in our care.  A recent event prompted me to circle back to the subject.

CanalShores12-HampsonsRedOakWe have been working on establishing tall grass buffer areas and walking paths with the intention of planting trees to create native savannah.  Our efforts on the 12th hole were noticed by our neighbors and they have generously offered assistance, including donations.  Specifically, we were the lucky recipients of a donated Red Oak tree that we happily planted in our nascent savannah.

There is a tremendous amount of work left to be done on clean-up and clearing of invasive tree species, like buckthorn.  Removal is only part of the process though.  Each cleared area needs to be enhanced with new vegetation and trees.  Therefore, as a starting point, we have created a Suggested Species List of trees (thanks to the efforts of Steve Neumann of Logic Lawn Care and our Superintendent Tom Tully).


THE LIST

The list, along with a picture of each tree follows.  Ultimately, we are working toward the look below, with healthy turf, tall grass, native areas, specimen trees, and vistas.

Photo by Dimpled Rock Photography (www.dimpledrock.com)

Photo by Dimpled Rock Photography (www.dimpledrock.com)

SUGGESTED DECIDUOUS TREES

  • Gingko (male only)
  • Red Maple
  • Sugar Maple
  • Black Gum
  • American Hornbeam
  • Hackberry
  • Red Oak
  • Pin Oak
  • White Oak
  • Swamp Oak
  • River Birch
  • Beech
  • Northern Catalpa
  • Sycamore
  • Hickory
  • Cottonwood

SUGGESTED CONIFEROUS TREES

  • White Pine
  • Jack Pine
  • Eastern Red Cedar
  • Hemlock

For further reading on the subject of tree management on a golf course / multi-use facility, check out this discussion thread on GolfClubAtlas.com and this great article from Dunlop White.

Thanks again to our volunteers and generous neighbors.  We will keep you updated on dates/times for upcoming volunteer clean-up sessions.  And if you would like to make a donation for the purchase of a tree, or to help offset the cost of clean-up and clearing (haul-away and wood chipping), please contact Tom Tully at ttully@canalshores.org.  Remember, Canal Shores is a not-for-profit, so all donations are tax deductible.


More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 5 (Tree Management)

CanalShores3-ReclaimedRidgelineOur tree management program has begun in earnest at Canal Shores.  Our strategy, which is built up on the Wide Open Spaces principle, is two-phased:

1.  Remove overgrowth and invasive species.

2.  Highlight remaining specimen trees while supplementing them modestly with conifer and deciduous species that we have selected for their beauty and native restoration qualities.

The list of selected tree species will be covered in detail in upcoming posts.  For now, focus is on phase 1.  Before sharing about our progress and findings thus far, let’s ask and answer a legitimate question:

Why go to all this trouble?  Why not just leave tree management to Mother Nature?

The members of the Board and Grounds Committee are inherently proactive and not keen on passively letting opportunities to improve Canal Shores slip by.  Beyond that quality of the people, there are several reasons why we have implemented a tree management program.

1.  Turf Health – Our Superintendent Tom Tully’s primary job is to grow and maintain turf on which it is enjoyable to play golf.  An overabundance of trees growing in the wrong places make that job more difficult and expensive.  Trees compete with turf for water and sunlight, and they usually win.  We do not have the funds to water more than the minimum, nor to continuously replace struggling turf areas.  Further, every golf course must be looking for ways to cut water usage in today’s culture of sensitivity to sustainability issues.  Simply put, we are tipping the scales in favor of our turf.

2.  Maintenance Costs – It might seem that doing nothing until one absolutely has to is the cheapest route to take.  In addition to the increased costs of maintaining healthy turf, improperly managed trees can cause costly course damage, property damage, and injury.  Any competent manager knows that proactive management of an asset is always cheaper in the long run than an approach of neglect that leads to the need for periodic crisis management.

3.  Maximizing Pleasure – There is an overwhelming consensus among Canal Shore’s stakeholders that the overgrown state of the property is much less beautiful than it could be.  Unique features are obscured and vistas are limited.  Tree management is a key factor in increasing beauty, which in turn increases pleasure.  For Canal Shores’s golfers, excessive and misplaced trees reduce the playability of the course.  While successfully navigating a strategically placed tree can be very pleasurable, constantly threading the needles of playing corridors choked by trees…not so much.  Enhancing the beauty, interest and playability of Canal Shores through tree management maximizes pleasure.

The case for tree removal and management from a golf perspective are covered further in my previous post The Sweet Sounds of Chainsaws.

The bottom line is this:  There are important reasons to take affirmative action with regard to tree management.  As stewards of this special place, it is our responsibility to actively manage the land that has been entrusted to us.

The slide show below shares our initial efforts on the Jans Holes (#3).  We have already created more width for golfers, as well as discovered specimen trees, and gorgeous curves and contours along the ridge line.

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More updates on our progress to come…


More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf