Colbert Hills Golf Course
Course first in Kansas to receive Signature Sanctuary certification from Audubon International
By Keener A. Tippin II
Hole No. 6 at Colbert Hills.
Colbert Hills Golf Course has garnered much praise for its golfing splendor. Spectacular. Majestic. Breath-taking. A diamond on the range. Kansas State University's crown jewel. One of Kansas' most challenging courses. A Top 10 college course ranking.
All accolades used to describe the sprawling, 18-hole, championship golf course that serves as home to the K-State men's and women's golf teams, and a living laboratory for K-State researchers to scientifically gauge the environmental impact of the course.
Add another jewel to the treasure chest of this golfing gem that cuts a path through the Flint Hills near Manhattan -- this one for its environmental practices and policies. Colbert Hills was designated an Audubon Silver Signature Sanctuary course in 2001 -- one of only six golf courses in the world at the time meeting the strict environmental criteria required to earn the Silver Signature.
Signature Sanctuary status is awarded to only new developments that are designed, constructed and maintained according to Audubon International's precise planning standards and environmental disciplines. The Signature Program successfully integrates natural resource conservation with economic progress, and community education.
To become certified, each signature member must design and implement a natural resource management plan to address issues regarding wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement; water quality monitoring and management; integrated pest management; water conservation, energy efficiency and waste management. The Signature designation is contingent upon the quality and completeness of the natural resource management plan and its implementation.
As of 2001, only six courses in the world have achieved the coveted silver certification; 22 have earned the bronze certification and no courses have been designated a Gold Signature course.
According to Nancy Richardson, Signature program director with Audubon International, the primary differences between the designations -- gold, silver and bronze -- are based on the time at which the project becomes part of the program, and the level of Audubon International involvement in the planning, design and oversight of the project. Silver level members are registered before construction on the project begins. Course developers retain staff associated with the Audubon International Institute to prepare the required Natural Resource Management Plan and conduct training for appropriate development staff members.
"Properties that are certified as an Audubon International bronze, silver or gold Signature Sanctuary are unique examples of what individuals can do when developing with careful consideration and respect for the environment," said Richardson. "Achieving certification as an Audubon Signature Sanctuary provides recognition for landowners who demonstrate their commitment to an environmental ethic by building solutions to environmental concerns into their project from the design stage on."
From the course's elaborate, bio-degradable water purification system to research on fungicide and pesticide usage to determining what to do with grass clippings, Colbert Hills course manager Dave Gourlay points to K-State officials' "foresight" to work with Audubon International prior to, during and following construction as the key to the course's environmental-friendly management practices.
"One of our priorities is to cohabitate with the habitat we share the land with," Gourlay said. "This is proof we're doing things the right way."
Colbert Hills' Audubon International designation also has an environmental-friendly, trickle down effect on the education component of the course as well, according to Steve Keeley, an associate professor of horticulture.
"A real theme in our instruction is trying to teach students which golf course management practices are environmentally responsible, Keeley said. "It's great to have Colbert Hills in that kind of situation where we can go out and show our students a real application of those kinds of practices."