Rethinking a golf course

The University of Minnesota’s Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights uses almost four times as much water per year as the U’s agricultural fields: 23 million gallons. That’s more than half of what the neighboring city of Lauderdale uses in a year!

In 2023, the course spent $18,000 on gasoline. At $3.50 a gallon, that’s equivalent to a car driving more than 116,000 miles.

Sixteen pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are used on the course, including Daconil Ultrex, which is fatal if inhaled and may cause cancer or organ damage through prolonged or repeated exposure. Another pesticide, Gallery 75 DF, is likely to kill aquatic organisms if spilled in waterways.

Some looking at a golf course see attractive grass and trees. But what does it take to maintain such grounds? As the climate changes, how much more water will be required?

As habitat is imperiled around the world, is it wise to maintain a golf course that contributes greenhouse gases, pollutes water sources, harms wildlife and negatively affects human health?

On the other hand, the golf course could be reimagined as a carbon sink, a water purifier and regulator, and a sanctuary for wildlife. Imagine the area planted with native prairie grasses and plants, their roots sequestering carbon in the soil. Imagine the golf course returned to woodlands. It would store 75 tons of carbon per acre.

Haven’t our city leaders been looking for more areas to plant trees? This 135-acre course could serve that purpose. Imagine a wildlife sanctuary; imagine the birds, pollinators, amphibians, small mammals and reptiles that could find habitat there.

How many other golf courses are in a ten-mile radius? Thirty-seven.

The U of M asks its students and staff to acknowledge that its campus is located on the “traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of Indigenous people.” What is the purpose of a land acknowledgment?

Please consider the land occupied by the Les Bolstad Golf Course. Please consider our collective, outsized impact on the environment.

Please take a moment to complete a short survey, developed as a project of Transition Town— All St. Anthony Park with a U of M Sustainability Internship. Visit bit.ly/UMNgolfsurvey.

Mark Robinson and Transition Town—All St. Anthony Park

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