Course to be built to exacting environmental standards

My turn

Posted: Tuesday, December 05, 2000

The saying "no good deed goes unpunished" finds a perfect example in the golf course proposed by Totem Creek, a non-profit corporation. Despite our good faith attempt to design the most environmentally sensitive course practical, our efforts have been portrayed quite to the contrary.

I've been a Totem Creek board member for over five years. I am not a golfer, but as a lifelong resident I want to see our community improve as it grows. I can imagine no better result in the disposal of public land than the creation of a public recreational opportunity such as golf, a game that can be played by almost everyone in our community. Even the infirm could find pleasure in the course we have planned.

From the beginning, environmental concerns took precedent over all others. Before we laid out a course, we sent professionals into the field to delineate wetlands and to determine which streams provide habitat for fish. Once we had the general area staked out, a survey team created a map detailing the site in two-foot intervals.

Bill Robinson, a golf course architect who has won environmental awards for numerous courses he has built in the Pacific Northwest, designed a course based on the best advice available from professionals in our community. We then applied for permits, subjecting our plans to the closest scrutiny of every agency federal, state and local and to public review and comment in forums and meetings too numerous to mention here. Since 1995, Robinson has made design revisions to the course at least six times to comply with the comments received, and to the 49 stipulations that resulted from the Alaska Coastal Management Program review.

Recently, CBJ staff has recommended 48 new and additional stipulations now before the CBJ Planning Commission, of which we object to only four. Of these, one is the staff recommendation that we join the Audubon Signature Program, run by Audubon International, a respected golf course consulting firm, based in Kentucky, an organization unaffiliated with the Audubon Society. CBJ had long ago agreed with Totem Creek's plan to design a course adhering to principals as stringent if not more so than Audubon International's and our plan to participate in the Audubon "Sanctuary Program," which is applied during operations. Now staff wants us to join the Signature Program, which effectively means redesigning the course to standards of an organization that has no experience with our environment.

Our object is to create the best, most economically feasible golf course possible. At this late date, forcing us to join the Signature Program will set us back to square one, require us to reapply for every permit. We rejected that option long ago for the same reason we chose not to design a course under the signature of a golf celebrity because it would add to the cost with no guarantee the expense would make a commiserate improvement to the course.

Not a single critic has cited any golf course built to more exacting environmental standards than the one Totem Creek proposes to build. This course will be the pride of our community, and as presently designed, it will be affordable for most people to play.

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