Sunday, January 28, 2018

Battling Invasives

Invasive species are making Canal Shores unhealthy.  In our interactions with the experts, we have learned that a healthy ecosystem has layers, each layer ideally containing a variety of species:
  • An herbaceous (ground) layer of grasses, flowers and groundcover that are the home to pollinators and other important insects and animals.
  • An understory (shrub) layer of small trees and shrubs that provide food and habitat for birds.
  • A canopy of trees, of varying species and age.
The primary problem that Canal Shores has with its invasives is in the understory, specifically with buckthorn and honeysuckle. That problem has manifested in three ways:
  • First, within the understory, buckhthorn and honeysuckle are extremely aggressive competitors and they have left us with almost no other shrubs, greatly decreasing biodiversity.
  • Second, they form dense thickets, starving the herbaceous layer of sunlight. Where buckthorn grows densely, there is bare ground underneath which also creates erosion problems on the canal banks.
  • Finally, the buckthorn and honeysuckle leave no space for desirable trees to regenerate.
There are good reasons why it is illegal to sell or plant buckthorn or honeysuckle in the state of Illinois. They are parasitic plants that take over and leave the areas they populate in much worse health.

Not only is buckthorn bad for the other plants around it, but the berries produced by the females have a laxative effect on birds, while providing no nutritional content.

Many thanks to Brandon from Ringers Landscaping for allowing us to share his webinar. We highly recommend watching at least the first 18 minutes.

The work is well underway on holes 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12-18. We have applied for a burn permit from the EPA to deal with the cut brush. We are also recruiting a Landscape Architecture / Ecology intern whose focus will be on maintenance of cleared areas as well as site-specific habitat design and implementation.

Decades of neglect and mismanagement are not going to be undone overnight.  However, we have made a beginning and we will continue working toward our goal of making Canal Shores a healthy ecosystem that includes a variety of native and other desirable trees.

We hope that all members of the Evanston-Wilmette community join us. Check back here regularly for dates of upcoming volunteer work sessions, or join our volunteer mailing list.  Inquiries about tree donations can be made with Dan Bulf ( This is a big job, but together, we can do it.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The State of Our Trees

We are not short of trees at Canal Shores, but as it turns out, we are short on good ones.  Planning Resources Inc. sent their Arborist out to do a tree survey (digital version of the survey coming soon...).  They were looking for valuable trees to keep and incorporate into the ecological master plan for the property.  "Valuable" is defined as important native species, or large, healthy trees that are not invasive species.  The survey found that Canal Shores has 904 trees on our 82 acres.

Decades of mismanagement has left us with an overgrowth of invasive brush, vines, and trees; numerous dead trees; and a dearth of quality natives.  A key component of responsible land stewardship is proactive tree management, which is our commitment going forward.

We have taken learnings from three years of pilot projects, added them to the expert perspective of PRI, and charted a path ahead toward a revitalization of the woodlands of Canal Shores.  Special thanks to Grounds Committee member Matt Rooney who drafted our Tree Policy, and then painstakingly revised it to incorporate feedback from numerous parties.  Click here to read the Canal Shores Tree Policy, which has been approved by our Board of Directors.

What does this look like on the ground?  Valuable trees have been tagged for preservation.

Invasives that are a priority for removal are being marked with spray paint.

The long process of clearing and cleanup continues.  Some of the debris from that clearing is being stowed away in tidy brush piles throughout the property.  Other debris will be burned under the guidelines of a special burn permit for which we have applied.

This is a big, important job.  As always, we will take volunteer assistance from folks of all ages.  If you would like to join our army of buckthorn warriors, email Dan Bulf at and he will add you to our list.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

14th Hole Bunker Rebuild

There was a long trench bunker left of the 14th green that we had been itching to rebuild for some time.  The bunker had fallen into a state of disrepair with low quality grass encroaching.

There was also a section of the cart path left of the green that we felt would make the 14th look and play better if it was grassed over.  There was a plan in place to remove the post & cable fence along Lincoln because it looked bad and the frayed cable can be a hazard.  We decided that the fence posts could add new flair to the 14th.  The fence was ripped out and away we went.

Our skid steer is on its last legs and broke down during prep work, but Westmoreland CC saved the day and loaned us theirs (thank you Superintendent Todd Fyffe), with an assist from our John Deere rep Dave Kloss.  We were also able to borrow a sod cutter from Bryn Mawr CC (thank you Superintendent Brian Bossert) to prep the area.  Our Assistant Super John Lee went to work on prepping the cart path and Jason Way laid out the new bunkers.

We had a stellar crew of golf geek volunteers show up to help with digging out the bunkers, sinking the sleepers, reshaping the path area, and laying sod.  Many thanks to Quinn, Andy, Peter, Brad, Ray, Graylyn, Tony and John.  Thanks also to John and Nick from our staff for putting in extra time on Saturday to assists us.

We are excited about the finished product.  What was once quite bland is now far from it.  Once the bunker sand is in and the sod has established enough that we can mow it, it should look and play great.

Two important notes for our players:

Cart traffic should now head around the green to the right to get to the 15th tee.  Even after the sod is established and we begin mowing it down to fairway height, this cart traffic pattern will be permanent.  No carts left of the green.

The bunkers are open for play as soon as we can fill them with sand.  The entire sodded area left of the green is ground under repair.  Players whose balls end up in this area get a free drop in the fairway.  We appreciate our players respecting this ground under repair designation.  Walking on the sod doesn't disturb it, but playing shots from it will keep the grass from firmly taking root.  When we can begin mowing this area, it will be open for play.

We hope you enjoy the new 14th.  On to next project...

Friday, July 28, 2017

How Far Is It? Tees & Yardages at Canal Shores

Canal Shores is not the typical golf course, which is why we love it.  In recent years, we have been taking steps to highlight what is unique about the course, while also cutting through the clutter of modern American golf to the essence of the game - fun.

Our players might have noticed the new scorecard, the design for which was generously donated by Ian Gilley from Sugarloaf Creative Lab.  The card has been simplified, and reflects changes we have been making to course setup.  Click here to view the scorecard.

Canal Shores now only has two tees - back (white) and forward (red).  For a course the length of Canal Shores, three sets of tees was overkill.  Our tees are not intended to be gender or age specific, but rather correspond to skill and strength level.  If you are a beginner or don't hit the ball very far, play up.  If you can get it out there just fine, play back.  Bottom line, have fun.

Tony and his crew have installed CDGA yardage markers on the tees of every hole.  These markers correspond to the back tee yardage on the card, and in some instances are more accurate than the hole signs.

As part of our effort to expand short grass throughout the course, we are now cutting fairways all the way back to the tees.  The 11th, 12th, 15th, 17th, and 18th are already converted with more to come.  The primary purpose of this change to our mowing patterns is to make the course more fun for our players, but there is a secondary benefit.  More short grass in the teeing area allows us to shed the confines of the tee boxes when setting up the course.  Our regular players will find the tees placed in a wider variety of spots, creating new challenges of distance and angle.  To know how long a hole is playing on any given day, simply find the CDGA marker, and pace off to the tee from there.

In the fairways, the red (100 yards) and white (150 yards) markers are also now accurate to the center of the green.

To really take creativity and fun to the next level, feel free to choose your own spot from which to hit your tee shot.  If you don't like our setup, make your own.  If there is a shot that looks like it might be fun to hit, drop a ball and hit it.  As long as our players are safe and courteous to others, it's all good with us.  Again, the bottom line is fun.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings - Grounds, Board, Eco

The spring and early summer have been keeping us plenty busy.  Dealing with the challenging weather, tuning up the course for our busy season, moving our pilot projects forward, and of course, meetings.  Our apologies for the lack of updates, but we have been busy with progress.

First, a housekeeping item.  Both the Board and Grounds Committee monthly meeting times have changed.  Board meetings are now held on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30pm at the Legion.  Grounds Committee meetings are now held on the second Saturday of each month at 8:00am.  The standard location for the meeting is the Pro Shop, but we have been holding some meetings at various spots around the course.  Immediately following the Grounds meeting, there is now a work session.  All are welcome at both the Board and Grounds meetings, and we appreciate the support of our work session volunteers.

May 2017 - Board & Grounds

The Grounds committee continues to move forward with neighborhood outreach and volunteerism.  Steve Neumann has successfully recruited several neighborhood Captains to assist us with communication and organizing.  Ecological planning work with Planning Resources, Inc. also moved forward steadily.  Click here for more details in the May Grounds Update.

Our Superintendent Tony Frandria and his crew admirably battled the elements throughout one of the wettest springs on record.  Click here to read Tony's full Superintendent's Report.

The Board meeting was very productive in May, with two key topics covered:

  • As a follow-up to April's First Tee presentation by Lisa Quinn, the Board authorized members of the development team to formally engage the First Tee of Greater Chicago in negotiations to create a youth golf partnership, including a dedicated area for youth practice and play at Canal Shores.
  • Discussions are well underway to formalize the approach to planning for the golf renovation, with a focus on stakeholder outreach.  The Board is resolute, and committed to being methodical and thorough to achieve the best possible outcome for all stakeholders.

June 2017 - Board & Grounds

It was rainy and wet, and then it got sunny and dry.  Tony and his team had a chance to finally catch up on mowing and begin to implement our ideas on grassing lines.  Click here to read Tony's June Superintendent's Report.

At the June meeting, the Board took an important formal step toward renovating the golf course.  A resolution was passed committing to pursuing a Golf Component to our Master Plan, to integrate with the Eco Component that is already in process.  Click here to read the full resolution.  A Golf Planning Committee will be formed and work through formally engaging a golf course architect.

July 2017 - Board & Grounds

With our spring projects largely complete thanks to our staff, neighbors, and volunteers, Tony and his team continue to dial the course in.  The greens have never looked better, and in spite of the challenging weather, the course is shining.  Click here to read Tony's July Superintendent's Report.

The Board meeting focused on plans to take our fundraising efforts to the next level in support of Operations, the Master Planning process, and ultimately, the golf and ecological renovation of the facility.  Near and long term sustainability of Canal Shores is top of mind for our Board, and they are taking action to ensure a solid future for the land and our finances.

The spring and early summer have been filled with progress from a Greens & Grounds perspective, and the future looks very bright.  Stay tuned for updates on or work on grass lines, the Eco plan, the improvements to the 15th hole, and more.