Twenty-five years ago, if you mentioned golf courses and the environment in the same sentence, you were probably talking about pollution and hazardous chemicals. Run a Google search about golf courses and pollution, and you’ll find a never-ending laundry list of concerns, and even lawsuits.
However, times have changed, with people like Paul Carter leading the charge.
Carter has been the superintendent at Bear Trace at Harrison Bay for 13 years. He already has an office full of awards and accolades for his and his staff’s environmental accomplishments. Very soon, however, Carter will be adding yet another major award to the wall.
Carter has been selected to receive the 2015 President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship by the board of directors of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
Paul Carter, the superintendent of the Bear Trace Golf Course at Harrison Bay. (Photo: Contributed)
Carter is humble when he describes the honor.
“It’s one of the top member awards, so … it’s pretty big … probably the biggest,” he said.
The GCSAA President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship was established in 1991 to recognize “an exceptional environmental contribution to the game of golf” and be “a contribution that further exemplifies the golf course superintendent’s image as a steward of the land.”
“Paul’s work is a shining example for all superintendents,” GCSAA President Keith Ihms said. “Through his impactful environmental stewardship, he demonstrates the full benefits of what golf courses can be for recreation and a healthy environment through professional management. We are pleased to honor him for his accomplishments.”
The list of positive environmental efforts on Bear Trace at Harrison Bay is long–it is one of just seven golf courses in Tennessee included in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. The course is one of only six in the U.S. to earn certification with the Golf Environment Organization. Bear Trace has also been recognized twice for the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award. In addition, Bear Trace has been designated a Groundwater Guardian Green Site as a result of Carter’s management, which has eliminated pollution in groundwater runoff. He has managed on-course changes as well, moving to a more suitable Bermuda grass turf and reducing chemical use by 75 percent with a variety of conservation programs. He also trimmed 50 acres of highly managed turf to save more than 7.4 million gallons of water annually.
“We’re pretty blessed,” Carter said. “We are lucky to be working with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. We get a lot of support, and of course [caring for the environment] is sort of what we’re supposed to be doing.
“The way we look at it, we’re just visitors,” he also said. “We come to the course for the day, work, play and have fun, but then we get to go home at night. The wild things have to stay here when we get to go home, so as visitors to their home, we want to lessen our impact … plus it’s fun.”
Earth Day at Bear Trace
Though it is far from the only environmentally friendly thing done on Bear Trace, Carter and his staff have probably gotten the most public recognition for the online Harrison Bay eagle cam. Every year, thousands of people from around the world view a bald eagle nest on Bear Trace using their computers. The camera is offline right now, because–as they have done almost every year–Bear Trace staff are upgrading their cameras and equipment under the expert advice of the American Eagle Foundation.
“We expect to have it back online very soon,” Carter said. “The adults usually start actively fixing up the nest in mid- or late December. They’ll usually lay eggs around the second week of February.”
Although his name might be on the award, Carter is quick to share the glory with his staff.
“I don’t do it myself,” he said. “We’ve got a good crew. My name gets thrown out there a lot, but it’s not just me. I don’t want people to think that.”
Carter will officially receive the award Feb. 25 during the opening session at the 2015 Golf Industry Show in San Antonio.