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Nature takes its course at Mirimichi

February 1st, 2011 / By: / Environmental, Feature

Award-winning erosion control and revegetation aced this golf course renovation.

Background

In 2007, when Big Creek Golf Course was on the auction block and slated for redevelopment, its future was unknown. Today, the renamed Mirimichi Golf Course is greener than ever due to the vision of new owner, golf junkie, and pop star, Justin Timberlake.

The recipient of a $16 million eco-friendly renovation in 2009 and further 2010 improvements, the revamped 300-acre course in Millington, Tenn., just north of Memphis, has been transformed into the only golf course in the world to hold both an Audubon Classic Sanctuary award and also certification from the Golf Environmental Organization—the highest honors in sustainable design.

The goals of the course renovation? To offer players the highest quality golfing experience while maintaining a natural, sustainable, open and green space.

Mirimichi Golf Course now includes:

  • a renewable energy field.
  • a recirculating watershed, including streams and ponds.
  • an exacting calculation of its carbon footprint.
  • an all-electric golf cart fleet.
  • water filtration and drainage enhancements.
  • reforested native trees and grasses.

To obtain a platinum certification from the renowned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the products used on the project site also had to exhibit the highest green standards. This was also true for the erosion control and vegetation products used in the redesign.

Erosion control solutions

When it came time for temporary stabilization and permanent revegetation of the newly graded areas surrounding the 18-hole course, Mirimichi planners started with two hydraulically applied mulches to address erosion control on the site.

The initial goal was to establish vegetation quickly. Both mulches contained all-natural fibers and were products manufactured regionally—qualities that aid in gaining LEED points. In addition, they are straw-and-cotton, plant-material-based fiber mulches that contain a blend of tackifiers that promote soil binding.

The planners recommended one of the mulches for moderate sloping areas up to 3:1 (H:V) and the other for slopes up to 2:1. The straw and cotton plant fibers create an interlocking, but porous, matrix over the soil fibers. This matrix provides soil erosion control while also allowing new vegetation growth to establish through the mulch.

Installations

Starting in April 2009, the two mulches were applied to the Mirimichi Golf Course in areas that were designated for plantings of native species, including both steep sloping areas as well as more moderate landscapes.

The two products were mixed in a mechanically-agitated hydroseeding tank and applied in a one-step process where the seed was mixed and applied at the same time as the mulches. They were mixed at a ratio of 50lbs/mulch to 100gal/water. This ratio, which requires comparatively less water-to-mulch, allows contractors more mulch to mix per tankload, thus reducing the overall installation time and, ultimately, providing both a time and cost savings.

The steeper slopes were applied at a 3,000 lbs/acre rate while the moderate slopes were applied at 2,000 lbs/acre. In total, approximately 15 acres of of the two mulches were applied at the Mirimichi site.

The two hydromulches were installed and intended for temporary erosion control. The long-term objective was to permanently stabilize the slopes with natural plant species that are low maintenance yet still beautiful for those enjoying the entire Mirimichi Golf Course experience.

A variety of wildflowers, lovegrasses, and other native species were used to protect the slopes. Since the course was scheduled to open in July 2009, that left only three months to reach full vegetation. The course’s landscapes responded with lush, green growth.

Results

Within weeks, Mirimichi was greening nicely both on and off the fairways.

The natural areas of native plantings were such a success that, after opening in the summer of 2009, Mirimichi was honored by the Audubon International with a “Classic Sanctuary” classification, the first U.S. project to receive such an honor.

This classification is awarded to renovation or restoration projects that add and integrate wildlife conservation, habitat restoration and enhancement, water conservation and water quality protection, and other areas of environmental protection and improvement.

2010 addendum

Despite its initial successes, Mirimichi did sustain a setback in the spring of 2010, the result of destructive flooding in northern Shelby County, Tenn.

Timberlake and his partners, however, used the flood damage as an opportunity and decided to rebuild many of the courses fairways, greens, and bunkers. A grand re-opening was staged at Mirimichi Labor Day weekend (September 2010).

Now, Mirimichi has plans to expand its green offerings, with the hopes of adding a second 18-hole course. The club also plans to offer additional sustainable products and technologies as the course grows.

For now, Mother Nature is taking her course.

Sources: North American Green, Ecorazzi, Mirimichi Golf Course

Ron Bygness, editor of Geosynthetics, also contributed to this article.

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