MARKHAM GREEN GOLF CLUB’S ENVIRONMENTAL MASTER PLAN
I have never really accepted the criticism that so and so “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Having played Markham Green Golf Course, I now know that it isn’t really a question of not seeing the forest for trees; it is instead a question of seeing the forest and the trees.
A ROUGE PRIMER
And like the Rouge, Markham Green is more than “a good idea.” Both are complex concepts embodying wisdom, vision, science, prediction, pragmatism, intelligent planning structures, and a keen awareness of contemporary social values.
Knowing that the Rouge has been recognized by the World Wildlife Fund as “a nationally important wildlife treasure,” Markham Green has been a partner with the thousands of ordinary citizens who collectively thought through the rewards of preserving this watershed area. As part of the big picture, Markham Green is constantly “in progress,” emulating and supporting natural life cycles.
A TRANSITIONAL AND SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS
Markham Green began life in 1950 as the exclusive Box Grove Golf Club for Nelson M. Davis, one of Canada’s wealthiest men. As fanatical about privacy as he was about golf, the enclave rarely had more than a group or two playing at any time. In 1967 he sold it to IBM and the course became the IBM Golf and Country Club. In 1992 the majority of the property was re-zoned for development and the valley portion of the course was conveyed to the Town of Markham operating as the Markham Green Golf Club, a 9 hole public facility. In the words of Golf Operations Manager Paul Morrell, Markham Green is “the best recreational and least invasive use of the property.”
And it makes a lot of business sense, given its Audubon and other accreditations. “When customers see our Audubon logo,” states Morrell, “it is usually a discussion starter that leads to a dialogue that enhances the public persona of the course.” Fully integrated into the surrounding community and Markham’s three-stream recycling program, Markham Green has become a role model for a proactive, environmentally sustainable facility, while maintaining its status as a highend public facility. Using natural and sustainable maintenance methods (course Superintendent Don Crymble calls it “happy grass”), the facility is also a role model for long-term business thinking that emphasizes economies of scale.
PLAYING THROUGH THE ROUGE
In a kind of natural diplomacy, Markham Green acts as a buffer of relatively light and passive recreation between the Rouge and nearby residential areas. Like a park, the course preserves permeable surfaces; the kind of waterconserving terrain that quickly disappears when housing and commercial development overtake non-urban space.
Water is what the Rouge is all about. The buffer zones of non-mowed vegetation between the fairways and the river conserve water, and the aerated storm water pond near the fourth hole also serves as a natural buffer zone. The buffer zones receive minimal maintenance and are subjected to minimal human intervention in general, increasing exponentially the diversity of species present. The turtles, frogs, and toads you encounter in these areas are true indicators of the health of the terrain you are sharing. Turtles lay their eggs in sand and therefore sometimes in sandtraps. In September when the eggs hatch, these areas are posted so that golfers can avoid them.
There is also a lot of rough on the Markham Green course where a minimum of mowing takes place. Tall waving grasses, a profusion of insect and bird-attracting wildflowers, and diverse species of low bushes are a botanist’s dream as well as secondary habitats on the course.
All this is a value-added element of golfing at Markham Green, something the loyal clientele appreciate.
NATURE SHAPES ITS OWN COURSE
And the piles of debris you see along the course are actually “critter houses.” They have been left as mini-environments for insects, small animals, butterflies, and birds. Large trees that have been partially removed leave tall trunks with flat tops, supporting bird and bat houses. A diseased elm in one wooded area on the course has been cut down and left as it is because this too is part of the eons-old process of a truly natural habitat; as well as a magnet for woodpeckers.
It has also won its certification as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, denoting a high level of competence in integrated pest management, outreach and education, water conservation, water quality management, and wildlife habitat management.
Markham Green is committed to its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, using pesticides only as required, and the course’s fertilizer program is based on regular soil tests.
It is important to note, however, that in a management plan that emphasizes moderation in all things, reasonable co-existence, and a comprehensive approach, Markham Green incorporates fundamental environmental practices that are also time-consuming, labourintensive, and costly. (Undesirable weeds such as ragweed are removed by hand.)
However, the fundamental principle of the Rouge is long-term thinking for long-term gain. A natural environment can be degraded and reduced very quickly as a result of short-term thinking. But it is long-term thinking that in the end is cost-effective.
A diverse and healthy eco-system, like a well-managed golf course, does indeed enhance lifestyle – this is the essence of the beauty of playing golf at Markham Green – and the real, long-term value is in its sustainable development. This is a principle that also is inherent in socially responsible, long-term marketing strategies.
In the fast-growing municipality of Markham where a stringent and multilevelled environmental strategic plan is paramount, Markham Green has been recognized as a role model and a responsible corporate leader. This, of course, is simply good business.
As Don Crymble commented, “We aren’t just having fun. This is also work. There’s nothing normal here. Everything is pre-planned.”
Environmental integrity is a fundamental principle of the Rouge Alliance and integrity is also at the heart of golf, a game that emphasizes the interplay of natural forces. With a long and diverse history, golf has been played in some of the wildest and most beautiful environments on the planet. Less manicured and fabricated than some courses, Markham Green is a beautiful place to golf; it is a very successful blend of a walk through the Rouge Valley and a challenging round of golf. Here you can see the forest and the trees.