Golf Course gets extreme makeover

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The Turf Reduction Program on the Golf Course is complete. On Thursday, May 21, a deeply overcast day that felt more like winter than spring, CLPOA Director Bruce Yarbrough wasn’t quite ready to celebrate. That day will come when the Metropolitan Water District sends a rebate check for some $1.5 million.

But Bruce’s job of overseeing this huge job was finished. With notebooks of invoices and several hundred before and after pictures, he was prepared that day to give a tour of the Golf Course to representatives from the Metropolitan Water District.

These pictures show one area of the Golf Course before and after turf removal. The mulched area at right has drip lines to each of the hand-planted shrubs, and bubblers for the trees.

heir job, he explained, was to see that the work was done and to take measurements of some of the areas where turf had been removed and then hydro-seeded or replanted with California-friendly shrubs and trees .

The MWD reps would compare their measurements to the measurements supplied by the Golf Course architect’s map when the Canyon Lake Property Owners Association applied for and was accepted into Metropolitan Water District’s “SoCal Water Smart Rebate Program” last year. MWD has promised $2 for each square foot of live turf removed and replanted with drought-tolerant plants.

Bruce said he was confident MWD’s measurements would match the measurements claimed by the Association during the application process, since Casey O’Callaghan, the landscape architect, had drawn a detailed map of every hole on the Golf Course with GPS technology. The combined square footage of areas where turf was to be removed added up to 17.8 acres.

While the Golf Course still maintains its lush greens, there are now vast swaths of brown mulch dotted with small, hand-planted rose bushes, shrubs and trees that, when mature, will take far less water than if those areas remained grassy.

In other areas where the turf was removed, purple alyssum and poppies are among the seasonal flowers currently blooming where a hydro-seed mixture of 15 seeds was sprayed.

Bruce says some of the hydro-seeded areas had to be resprayed a second time when seeds failed to take root, perhaps because they didn’t get enough water during some of those unseasonably hot days of Spring. The cool, damp weather experienced in recent weeks seems to have given the seeds a better chance to get rooted. Residents who view those bare areas should start seeing new growth beginning to fill in.

The reason some areas got mulch and plants, while other areas got hydro-seeded, has to do with playability and costs. Mulch was placed in the areas where golf balls tend to land when they’re hit off course. Hydro-seeding is less expensive while still providing an attractive ground cover in less played areas.

Planting drought-tolerant landscaping has the advantage of eventually saving water and the rapidly increasing costs of water. It has been estimated the savings will be 18 1/2 million gallons of water per year once the plants get established. Until the plants get established, which will take two to three years, the areas will continue to be watered.

The flip side to water savings are increased maintenance costs. It’s much easier to mow grass. “There are a lot of components to make this work so there is increased maintenance,” Bruce explains. “For example, there are 615 low-volume spray heads, 103 new irrigation valves and 4,471 new drip lines to the shrubs and trees, to name a few.” And that doesn’t include weed control!

Weeds and grass already are encroaching in the mulched and hydro-seeded areas. In the hydro-seeded areas, where 15 different plants are beginning to grow, maintenance workers will have to be trained in what is a good plant and what is a weed. Spraying herbicide will kill encroaching grass.

When the master plan for the Golf Course originally was drawn up, it was hoped the aging irrigation system could be replaced. But that project wasn’t covered by the Metropolitan Water District grant, so the original irrigation lines are still in place under the fairways and roughs. Where turf was removed, lateral lines were cut short, and drip lines and bubblers installed going to every plant and tree in the mulched areas. Hydro-seeded areas get a light overhead spray.

A professional contractor, Integrity Golf, performed almost all the physical labor for the Golf Course’s extreme makeover. Now that it’s done, Valley Crest Maintenance Supervisor Mark Louder and his crew are responsible for maintenance.

Canyon Lake’s own Tuesday Work Group, a group of 48 men who volunteer their time and skills every Tuesday morning from Fall to Spring, helped with several big jobs on the Golf Course. The removed a whole hillside of acacia bushes and lots of ice plant. They took out golf cart paths. They removed wrought iron fencing near the clubhouse. They helped cut back trees and oleanders. And they spread mulch – lots of mulch.

There was one more task for Bruce to see through last week and that was to meet with representatives of the Southern California Golf Association (SCGA) to re-rate the Golf Course now that some of the blue, white, red and gold tee boxes have been stretched further apart on some of the holes.

As he looks to the future, Bruce says his biggest concerns are the need to convert irrigation water on holes 3, 4 and 5 (and tee box 6) to recycled water. Those holes currently use potable water because they drain into the lake.

With the improvements in treating recycled water, there was a time a couple of years ago when it appeared the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District would approve the switch to recycled water on those holes.

However, with the recent ill will between the CLPOA and EVMWD over the lake lease, Bruce says he has not been able to get an agreement on the switchover to recycled water. That’s disappointing since there was a chance to get additional rebate money from MWD last year to help with the switchover.

His other concern is the Golf Course lake, which also uses potable water and leaks terribly. Bruce estimates as much as 30 percent of the water pumped into the lake leaks into the aquifer. At night the water in the lake is used to irrigate nearby greens. By day, new water is pumped in.

Since it would cost more than $200,000 to line the lake, Bruce thinks a better solution would be to remove it altogether and replace it with dry “riverbed” landscaping. The other option is to get a new pump and fill the lake with recycled water.

But that’s a challenge for another day, and not part of this extreme makeover.

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Sharon Rice