Golf Course Management

FEB 2017

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

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50 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 02.17 "Our ultimate goal is to lead by example and help inspire future environmental stew - ards," says Heptig, who welcomes tours and gives group presentations at Dairy Creek. His desire and effort to create a zero- waste golf facility and an environmentally friendly golf facility had a head start. Dairy Creek's story began with Ray Festa, Heptig's predecessor, who helped hire him before he retired. "Ray had always done things with the environment in focus. He made sure to protect the land, the staff, and our residents and visitors. He was diligent with paper - work, things such as personnel and plant protection records. I wasn't scrambling, try - ing to figure out things on the fly. I had a really good road map with a past history of where we had been," Heptig says. He also gained plenty of support, in - cluding assistance from EPA Inc., a non- profit corporation that participated in the planning of Dairy Creek's Zero Waste Park. The Integrated Waste Management Au - thority of San Luis Obispo donated two in- vessel composters. The Morro Bay National Estuary Program funded education and outreach. Eco Rotary Club of Morro Bay helped install infrastructure. And, at Hep - tig's request, Par Aide began manufacturing recycling bins in blue, the color commonly used to symbolize recycling. "Seeing the blue containers on the GIS showroom floor the next year proved that we are helping to change the culture of golf," Heptig says. "Tea time" for Heptig may not be what you think. A compost tea brewer, which makes a product that can be used as a liquid fertilizer and biostimulant, was a full-steam- ahead proposition. In a process known as "vermiculture," earthworms digest food waste material in what Heptig refers to as their "cold" compost bin (meaning the compost is created through the worms' di - gestion of food waste instead of through the traditional bacterial decomposition of food waste, which generates heat). The process continues when the worm compost is used to brew a compost tea that becomes nutri - ent-rich turfgrass fertilizer. Birds of prey (16 owl boxes and 40 rap - tor perches) are part of the integrated pest management program to help control ro - dents, gophers and other vertebrate pests. As for those sheep, well, they are on the spot to help native plant species return to natu - ral areas and to eliminate invasive plants, all while returning carbon to the soil. This grazing practice eliminates the need for gas- powered equipment or herbicides that may be harmful to the environment or patrons of the facilities. "We're following in the foot - steps of our predecessor, Old Tom Morris. He used sheep," says Heptig, who recycles everything from egg cartons to milk jugs. "This is no fly-by-night operation," says Jeff Jensen, GCSAA's Southwest regional field staff representative. "He's got all his stations labeled. It's a clean operation. It's a really good image for the golf industry. Josh has a great ability to communicate his vi - sion. His outreach is an important part of the message." Heptig and his wife have two daughters. His oldest wanted her fifth birthday party to be at Morro Bay GC. Why? Monarch butterflies. Thousands of them (17,000, ac - cording to the latest count). "She wanted to play some golf and show her friends the but - terflies. They all had a blast," says Heptig, who's also thrilled to see the butterflies. "We didn't choose them — they chose us. When we give tours, people are surprised that the monarchs live on a golf course, because of the negative perception they have about the management of turf. Once I begin to tell them about how we manage Morro Bay, they are amazed about the lengths we go to to protect our natural resources and com - munity. We don't hide anything, and are upfront with our use of water and chemi - cals. By the end of the tour, attendees are in awe and agree that we are doing things right if the butterflies choose to live in the middle of our golf course. We let them know that what we are doing is more like the norm in our industry rather than the exception." What Heptig has accomplished brings joy to Richard McConaghay. A carpenter and contractor in San Luis Obispo who was a volunteer golf course marshal when he first met Heptig, McConaghay recalls a time when you couldn't find any recycling containers on the golf course. McConaghay and some friends approached Heptig about being their voice — and muscle — in mak - ing environmentally related changes. They had no idea, though, that their relationship would create Dairy Creek's Zero Waste Park. "Josh has done the hard work. He's solid," McConaghay says. "He's not faking it. He's chipped away with the truth." In college, Heptig stopped running com - petitively, and, in time, stopped altogether. "Without the competition, I really didn't have the fire to keep running, plus my pas - sion for the game of golf became a bigger focus," he says. Five years ago, however, Heptig started running again — just not in the neon yel - low spikes with purple stripes that he wore while emerging as a star in high school. He says his metabolism has slowed with age, and that he runs to remain healthy, not to run competitively. Still, the race to make this a better world continues. "I don't know where the finish line is. Just work as hard as you can, and make time for your family," Heptig says. "In my job, there's nearly always a solution. My goal right now is to find the best solutions with our community in mind, because our courses belong to them." Howard Richman is GCM 's associate editor. Heptig puts on his Grassroots Ambassador hat, giving Greg Haas (aide to former Rep. Lois Capps) a tour of Dairy Creek GC.

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