To the Membership,
This year we have turned our focus more upon preserving what we have. In this we are looking at preserving as many of our existing trees and shrubs as possible. You may be thinking that this is how it should of been all along, but it is easy to get off focus when trying to accomplish different missions.
As most members know, we have had an invasion of the Pine bark beetle since Hurricane Katrina passed through and blew them from north of the lake. We also experience our share of large wood boring beetles in our old Water Oak Trees. It is not financially feasible for us to attempt rid ourselves of these pest through chemical treatments. Our only hope is to try to keep our trees as healthy as possible so their natural abilities can fight off these invasions. This involves pruning out dead branches, proper fertilization programs as well as removal of severely effected trees in order to keep the spread of these insects to a minimum.
Our club currently has a rule in it's bylaws that was formed many years back, due to the removal of a single Oak Tree from behind #13 green (what I have been told). This rule states that in order to remove an Oak over 12" in diameter requires the Memberships permission. This may have been a good rule to have at one time to keep blatant removal of our most cherished assets, but it also has been the leading cause for the loss of many more Oaks then it was meant to save. I have had to sit and watch while our great oaks were dying off naturally and allowing tree borers to take refuge, which allowed them to reproduce and spread from tree to tree. These insects attack the dead sections of these trees, their branches, trunks and root systems. But the rule, or interpretation of the rule has kept me from removing these trees until they were completely dead. After losing over 20 such trees we are now understanding that our practices and the good intentions of the Membership so many years ago has been flawed. We have worked out a deal recently in acquiring a lift which would allow us to remove all of the dead wood from these trees, and there by relieving the stress they cause these trees. We are also removing any oaks that are 50% dead or have severe trunk issue where these borers take hold. We are doing the same with our pine trees and bushes around the course.
Our club has never had a proper tree trimming program, NEVER, EVER. I know it is very hard to accept the removal of large trees that have been here well over 40 years but the neglect of proper pruning and removal of diseased trees only leads to more issues with the trees that are left, as we now have learned. If you cannot take care of your assets, they will slowly dwindle away, as we now are seeing.
I have been inside of the canopies of many trees the last two weeks, and have seen many issues within these trees. I see a lot of Pine Trees that can be saved with proper pruning, but I have also seen and removed many branches that have had infestations already within them. The large Water Oaks I have been in so far have reached their peak life span and are already in some sort of declining stage. While we may be able to buy them a few more years (5-10) Most will be gone in our lifetime. Knowing this now allows us to plan ahead for the future of our course. We have already been on a tree planting program and have planted over 50 trees in the past 3 years. We plan on continuing with this program over the next 3-5 years. We have developed goals of keeping our course as it was built, but with better long term planning.
One thing never considered in the past when planting trees was their upkeep (which now shows through their neglect), or the species of trees planted. While large Water Oaks are majestic and look great, they are very expensive to up keep. No one had planned on the cost to keep these jewels pruned over their lifetime. Many members that have had this work done at their homes already know the cost just to prune one tree is over $500, and their removal generally cost over $2,500. When you factor in that we had over 75 of these oaks planted throughout the course you can see the cost of upkeep far exceeded our budget. Our current goals involves using trees that do not grow beyond the Maintenance Departments capabilities, are disease resistant, will need very little pruning and when needed can be removed safely. Our goals had to be planned beyond our current crew and whatever crew the club has in the future. The large majority of clubs spend between $20,000 and %50,000 per year on tree upkeep. Our club is lucky to get $1,000-$3,000 per year.
So as you see us working to preserve our assets around the course, stop and take a moment to consider what it takes to successfully keep our club in top shape. If you have any connections involving tree lifts, either free or very cheap or would like to donate some of our future trees, please contact one of the Board Members or myself.