Middlefield Golf Course, a 5,200-yard, 18-hole executive course, has been owned by the city of Cottage Grove, Oregon, since 2006. In that time, we’ve made a few changes that have leveraged its assets and turned it into a major community resource. Middlefield is often referred to by patrons and passersby as a “fun little course” or a beautiful setting to introduce visitors to the small town of Cottage Grove. It is literally a welcome mat, as Interstate 5 runs right through the middle of the golf course, making it the first sight for visitors and travelers.
The city of Cottage Grove’s purchase of Middlefield was more than just a land-sale agreement of a recreational hot spot for local golf enthusiasts. The idea was to purchase the golf course to solve one of the city’s pending wastewater woes and bring the city into compliance with government wastewater regulations. Prior to purchasing Middlefield, the city was discharging its effluent water into a temperature-limited stream (Coast Fork of the Willamette). However, with future tightening of government regulations, this was not going to continue to be an option. One solution was to build a cooling tower to cool the effluent water during the summer months, but with projected costs in excess of $1 million, the city began to think about alternative solutions.
In 2006, I had been to the Golf Industry Show in Orlando where I saw first-hand how some golf courses there were using effluent water for irrigation. City Manager, Richard Meyers, asked me about the feasibility of purchasing Middlefield and irrigating it with the reclaimed water. Doing so was estimated to be less costly than building a cooling tower, and it would be a city asset.
Since the golf course and wastewater treatment plant are in close proximity to each other, this kept the costs down on infrastructure improvements. The physical work of trenching and installing pipe and valves in the ground was the easiest part of the process. The most difficult and time consuming part was attaining the permit. The system was functionally ready in 2008, but not cleared by the U.S. Department of Environmental Quality for lawful operation until 2010.
It is not a perfect system, but none, particularly retrofitted ones, are. However, in addition to the million dollar cost savings, we have the following tangible results:
- Approximately 50 million gallons of fresh water are conserved every irrigation season.
- Approximately 50 million gallons of wastewater per season, previously discharged to the river, now irrigates green space.
- Turfgrass is the best natural filter of contaminants, such as nitrates and phosphates, in water because it actually uses and stores these and other nutrients.
- The grass is greener, resulting in a 30 percent savings in fertilization costs.
Besides switching to effluent water for irrigation on the golf course, Middlefield also added soccer golf and disc golf to its list of services. These inexpensive additions opened up the green space to a much wider variety of users. On the disc golf course, we find that many high school through college-age kids are playing with their friends. And the soccer golf course is used by scout troops, families and kids after school and through the summer. These services have added two inexpensive, outdoor, physical activities with a low barrier to entry for the public.
We also boast a perimeter cart path that is open to all, including bikers, joggers and walkers. It is adjacent to the golf course and has spectacular views of several acres of woodlands and wetlands for birdwatchers and wildlife lovers. Cottage Grove has several green space assets, but a small budget. By simply adding paths to connect some of the green spaces, we’ve created long running, walking and biking paths that connect throughout the community.
All of these amenities have helped to increase community use and introduce our beautifully maintained landscape with the natural environment to all walks of life.
If you want to potentially save or create a job, golf course, green space, $1 million, a watershed or all of the above, consider switching your course to effluent water. Middlefield Golf Course has had a positive impact on the surrounding community and the natural environment by making the switch. If you would like to open up your golf course to more members of your community, consider adding a soccer/disc golf course. Children and families will thank you for the opportunity to enjoy the green space. And, if you have a nearby trail system, consider connecting it to your golf course (or to a path adjacent to the cart path) to further increase its use.
Kris Ammermanis the Park & Golf Superintendent for Middlefield Golf Course in Cottage Grove, Oregon.