A new partnership paired Steamboat Springs High School students with the Haymaker Golf Course last week to further its sustainability efforts.
Through an existing relationship with Haymaker, Environmental Solutions Unlimited, of Steamboat, enlisted help from five National Honor Society members from the high school to clean birdhouses at the golf course.
Environmental Solutions President Lyn Halliday said the nonprofit group assists the course with its sustainability efforts, such as minimizing pesticide use, conserving water and creating animal habitats. She said it’s also trying to reach out to the community, especially youths.
“It’s kind of fun to get the young people involved and knowledgeable,” she said. “Plus, they take ownership.”
In trying to enlist high school students to lend a hand at the golf course, Halliday was led to Steamboat’s National Honor Society chapter. Three students cleaned out the birdhouses on the course’s front nine Tuesday, and two took the back nine Wednesday.
But before they got to work, the students got a brief lesson about the importance of maintaining the birdhouses from local bird expert Tom Litteral, a member of the Yampa Valley Birding Club.
The bluebirds that use the birdhouses could be susceptible to parasites if the birdhouses aren’t cleaned every year, Litteral said. He said their survival helped the course reduce its pesticide use because they’re a natural predator of insects.
Litteral added that cleaning the birdhouses is important because the birds’ natural
habitats, holes in fence posts and trees, have been reduced through urbanization.
“This golf course has become successful at raising
birds, and making birdies,” Litteral joked. He added that the students’ cleaning of the birdhouses, the first time in a year, would improve the bluebirds’ chances of survival. “It’s great that (the students are) getting a hands-on experience in conservation efforts.”
Haymaker became an Audubon Signature Sanctuary in 2001 when it was being built, course Superintendent Bill Whelihan said. The designation, from Audubon International, requires that sustainable resource management practices are applied and maintained.
Whelihan said about 130 of the golf course’s 238 acres consist of native grasses and wetlands that serve as animal habitats, including more than 30 birdhouses. He said the course has a wastewater recycler that cleans water it uses to wash equipment. And Whelihan said education about course practices is provided during junior golf clinics.
“We all drink the water. We all breathe the air,” he said. “We’re trying to be as natural as we can be.”
Whelihan said it’s not uncommon for groups to volunteer to help maintain some of Haymaker’s sustainable efforts.
High school juniors Tommy Lyon and Wesley Williams said they’re required to complete 40 hours of community service in addition to participating in two-thirds of the high school’s National Honor Society projects. As they learned in their lesson from Litteral, they were doing more than just cleaning birdhouses.
“It sounded like a fun job, and I guess it helps the whole golf course community,” Lyon said.
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com