Oak Bay Golf Club and Marina, located in Port Severn Ontario, is like other golf courses. It has impeccable conditioning and compliments its surrounding natural environment as if it was always meant to be there. If you dig a little deeper however you will begin to notice that Oak Bay Golf and Marina is not lcompletely like the rest. When visiting Oak Bay you may ask yourself “why are there multiple carries over natural areas?” Or, “Why are the edges of the wetlands and ponds left unmaintained?” Or even “What is a Bee City Golf Course?” These unique choices stem from a sustainability perspective since Oak Bay Golf Club is nestled on the edge of Georgian Bay.
Georgian Bay is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, consisting of the world’s largest freshwater archipelago, the Canadian Shield, forests, islands, wetlands, inlets, and an abundance of biodiversity. Designated by the United Nations as an ecosystem that needs safeguarding, this rich environment requires special attention from all residents including the golf course. “From its inception, the course was built with the environment in mind; nothing here is done by accident,” Superintendent Owen Ledwith explains. From the native plants planted along the sides of the wetland and ponds to assist water filtration and minimize entry by golfers looking for stray balls, to the 9 acres of protected Environmentally Sensitive Areas which act as wildlife corridors and are completely pesticide free; Oak Bay has always made protecting and preserving the natural environment a top priority.
This made it easy when in the summer of 2019, The Township of Georgian Bay announced they would be applying for the Bee City Canada Designation and wanted to know what initiatives Oak Bay had in place to support pollinators. “We were already doing so much for our wider ecosystem, it just made sense for us to set our own pollinator specific commitments and apply to become the first Bee City Golf Course,” Ledwith stated.
Becoming a Bee City Business is relatively simple; you fill out the application and set goals for your business such as planting and maintaining areas of native wildflowers; decreasing pesticide use and public outreach and education. Keeping the commitments you made to the pollinators and the environment will be the most challenging aspect. The role of a golf course Superintendent becomes critical when engaging in sustainability management. Golf course Superintendents, however, are often over-worked and under-resourced, making it difficult to dedicate time fully to sustainability projects even when they are passionate about them. “Having the Bee City Business as a formal public statement gives responsibility to our entire team to not only support pollinator health but educate our guests as well,” Ledwith stated.
Becoming a Bee City Golf Course is the first step towards applying for an Audubon certification. Oak Bay believes that becoming the world’s first Bee City Golf Course will set an example for other courses to work on bridging the gap between sustainability and golf all across Canada.
Ready to take your business to the next level and focus on sustainability and pollinator health? Learn more about how you can become a Bee City Business at www.beecity.org.