Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System Putting the Environment First, by Mark Leslie, Golf Course News
Rick Kerins had been “raising the bar” in the environmental friendliness of his maintenance program at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course even before taking the reins in 1983. Growing up on the course owned by parents Jack and Mary Lou Kerins, Rick “got a feel for the environment” early on.
The “feel” translated into Kerins taking aggressive environmental steps that have earned him the national Environmental Steward Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association, a Certificate from the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the post of steward for Pennsylvania fir Audubon International and its Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.
His love for the environment, Kerins said, is “something that’s in you. I may take it to the extreme sometimes. I take to heart what I do. I want the course to be environmentally friendly.”
“It’s not one thing you do,” Kerins added. “There are a lot of things you can do to make it a lot more friendly.”
Here is a man who uses Garlic Barrier in his pond to repel mosquitoes; who uses an all-natural fertilizer; who uses green lacewings and ladybugs to attack aphids, diatomaceous earth (ground-up seashells) to control earthworms and nematodes to control grubs.
Here is a man whose recycling program runs the gamut from grass clippings to cardboard and batteries; who is on a gradual program to incorporate the turf with more ryegrass which is easier to care for, both culturally and chemically; and who, when underground storage regulations began to take force, had a local company build him an above-ground containment system that has now been duplicated many times over elsewhere.
“You wouldn’t be in the profession unless you enjoyed the challenges,” Kerins said.
Co-operating the course with his brother John, the golf pro, Kerins was far ahead of the curve when joined the Cooperative Sanctuary Program. It took him only one year to achieve full certification. “We were able to zip right through it because we had already met most of the criteria,” he said.
A professor who saw his Integrated Pest Management Program said it was the best he had ever come across.
“We’re hoping to be pesticide-free,” Kerins said. “I don’t know if that will be a total reality, but we want to have the very least possible. We respect the environment and don’t want to abuse it in any way. We live here.”
“One of my main goals is to help others, but also to set an example,” Kerins said. “I give a lot of talks to superintendent groups to promote the Audubon program. I’d like them to think a little differently about their cultural practices and what they put on their greens.”
Education of the masses is being accomplished in another way at Tam O’Shanter, as well.
At each tee, a sign emblazoned with the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System Symbol informs golfers about one of the projects on the course, or the history of the land, or the facility’s recycling program.
Kerins sees a “definite swing toward more environmental awareness,” he said. “I also see a lot of companies coming out with products that are less toxic.”
While Rick maintains the sprawling golf course, his wife Paula, who Rick refers to as “my right-hand person”, focuses on the business end of the operation, while also contributing to her husband’s environmental cause.
Rick and Paula have three children: Colleen, Christen and Joseph. Whether the three follow in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents, odds are they will inherit their father’s “feel for the environment.”