Golf Course Management

MAY 2014

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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74 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 05.14 Every living thing is judged by what it pro- duces. The value of the production results in methods of management. I will admit that I have sometimes questioned, "What does turf - grass produce?" To obtain an answer to my question, I set out to initiate a project in Flint, Mich., to con - sider the impact of turfgrass on an urban soci- ety. Why Flint? Because in the spring of 2010, the FBI labeled Flint as "the most dangerous city in America," with over 6,000 abandoned homes and numerous neglected parks. This made Flint an ideal location to measure the ef - fect that manicured turfgrass has on society. To perform the study, I needed industry and community partners. The Scotts Co. was happy to provide funding, fertilizer, herbicide and grass seed, while John Deere gave me a zero-turn mower and nine push mowers. Now all I needed was community involvement, and with assistance from the Genesee County Land Bank, I was introduced to David Caswell. David was a retired principal who was convinced that simply mowing the grass on a weekly basis in and around his local park, Ramona Park, would change the area for the better. To hear David tell the story, Ramona Park was a historical site that was neglected and allowed to become a "dark, dank wild jungle with lots of safety hazards." Before I could begin mowing Ramona Park, David organized a group of individuals to remove piles of trash and downed branches from the site. Because of the area's reputation, I admit to being nervous when I initiated the study. David must have understood my apprehension because the frst day I mowed Ramona Park, he sat on a wooden crate and watched over me. It made me a little uncomfortable, but his pres - ence made me feel safe. As the weeks passed, residents realized I would return every Wednesday to mow, so they began to pick up the trash themselves to make my job easier. Many of them also began to maintain vacant lots next to their homes, and as a local magazine reported near the end of my frst season of mowing, "All kinds of so - cial events are happening at the park. There was even a birthday party." The story also re - ported "people surrounding the area are be- coming involved in the community" and had begun "reporting drug operations and other il- legal activity." During the second year, the community got together and wrote a grant, which they secured, to remove old fence lines and posts along with tons of discarded cement. After seed and fertil - izer was applied to the cleared site, David told me that some residents began asking him if we were building a golf course. In October 2012, Michigan State Uni - versity sociology master's student Rachael Jo- hansson performed a survey in the neighbor- hood. Her survey asked residents how their lives had changed, if at all, since MSU began mowing, fertilizing and applying weed con - trol in their neighborhood. Results from her survey included: • 100 percent of residents claimed there was less trash • 95 percent made improvements to their homes because the park was being maintained • Over 75 percent interacted with their neigh - bors more • Over 60 percent trusted their neighbors more, which led to nearly 70 percent of the residents claiming they felt safer in their community. When David Caswell took his last breath several weeks ago, Ramona Park was a beauti - ful, manicured piece of turfgrass that brought a sense of security, heightened friendship and pride to an otherwise discarded part of our country. It was in that condition because of David's convictions. Indeed, we are all ulti - mately judged by what we produce. Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D., is the turfgrass academic spe- cialist at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., and a frequent GCSAA educator. Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D. You are what you produce: Part I To hear David tell the story, Ramona Park was a historical site that was neglected and allowed to become a "dark, dank wild jungle with lots of safety hazards." (up to speed) 074-075_May14_UptoSpeed.indd 74 4/16/14 2:52 PM

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