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Roger Teters checks on bird boxes at Blacklick Woods Golf Course in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. The course is one of three in Central Ohio that is a certified Audubon Sanctuary. Designated courses must maintain environmentally-friendly areas for surrounding wildlife. (AP Photo/The Columbus Dispatch, Abigail Saxton Fisher)

Ohio golf courses dedicating more space for wildlife

June 12, 2013 at 11:12 AM

The Associated Press

NEW ALBANY, Ohio (AP) — Three bird boxes flank an overgrown area near the first tee of the north course at New Albany Country Club.

The high grasses indicate not a missed spring cleaning but a conscious effort by the club, which, like several other Columbus-area golf courses, has committed to making itself more environmentally friendly.

The courses are dedicating more space to wildlife, thus saving money in mowing costs; limiting the use of pesticides; and adding bird boxes.

Allocating money specifically for environmental planning is a relatively recent development at New Albany Country Club, said Paul Hollenbaugh, director of golf.

"We've been open 21 years now, and until two or three years ago that wasn't really a factor," he said. "I've noticed a groundswell of people interested in that sort of thing."

Stephen Harris, a club volunteer, is one of them. The photography and fishing buff — also a golfer — asked club employees several years ago whether he could fish the club ponds.

They said OK.

Ever since, he said, he has spent "hundreds of hours" looking at the club's grounds management from a different angle.

He set up motion-detection cameras in the woods to capture animal traffic (and the occasional golfer looking for a lost ball) and took aerial photographs of the grounds to get a bird's-eye view of the habitat with which he was working.

His reward? Scores of animal photos — beavers, foxes, coyotes and white-tailed deer, among others — and a 9-pound largemouth bass he caught and released from one of the ponds.

"It's brought a lot of pride to the golf course," Harris said.

At other central Ohio golf courses, too, volunteers are getting involved.

Roger Teters and Mike Doherty, both longtime volunteers at Blacklick Woods in Reynoldsburg, spearheaded a project five years ago to maintain and construct dozens of bird boxes at the Metro Parks-owned golf course.

Their annual routine begins in March, when they take to the course to repair broken boxes, Doherty said. They also grease the bird-box poles to keep out mice and snakes — and, by May, birds begin to nest.

Teters, a self-proclaimed "bird nanny," said he and Doherty check twice a week throughout the summer to ensure that all is well in the boxes, which Teters said has been both rewarding and relaxing.

"I just stand over the pond and listen to the sounds and see what I can see," said Teters, an avid golfer.

"It's very therapeutic to go out on the golf course and watch the painted turtles in the pond and the kingfishers."

Blacklick Woods and New Albany Country Club are both certified under an Audubon International program that encourages golf courses to consider the environment as they are maintained. Thirteen courses in Ohio have the certification.

In addition, Longaberger Golf Club near Nashport is one of the state's three Audubon Signature courses — new properties committed to conservation.

Several other area courses are in the process of receiving Audubon certification.

Much of the program's focus concerns proper water management and conservation, which fosters a friendly habitat for birds and other animals.

Draining runoff to specialized pipes instead of storm drains and letting grass grow higher around ponds are routine ways of keeping contaminants out of the water, said Blacklick Woods superintendent Mike Samulski.

The golfers don't always recognize Blacklick Woods' environmental strides, he said, but those who do are usually appreciative.

"A lot of our golfers don't really know exactly what we're doing in detail, but they do know that, well, 'They're a certified sanctuary golf course,'" Samulski said.

"They just go: 'Well, I know that name and what it stands for, and I think the program there is worth it. They do good things.'"


Information from: The Columbus Dispatch,

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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