Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Badger Experts and Bird Psychologists



Castlestewart construction on a windy day.








When I went around the Castlestewart with Gil, we were walking up the 10th hole when he mentioned the badger den near by in the gorse of the sea cliff. This became the start of a very typical conversation between architects. “So what were the craziest environmental requirements on this project?”

Before I continue you will find that most current architects agree with the environmentalists that there are places where holes should not be built and there are locations where courses should never be proposed. I believe in the preservation of natural ecosystems and that we should work to fit our holes within the landscape rather than rebuild the entire site and destroy natural habitat. Generally I have a great deal of respect for the people whose job it is to protect the natural environment. What I don’t get is the ones that start any meeting with, “You realize I’m fundamentally opposed to golf because it destroys the environment” There is enough evidence through the monitoring programs that this is not the case and in fact golf courses have been proven to be a benefit in many cases as opposed to a source of harm.

I’ve had a few memorable experiences with approvals but my favorite took place with the new nine at Nobleton Lakes. A member of the Conservation Authority fought to protect a series of 16 foot diameter puddles in the middle of a (clay) farm field because it was a “potential pocket wetland that might support amphibians” This is was very amusing since I had photos showing the pocket wetland was completely empty two weeks ago before the rain. This was even more frustrating when you look at the adjacent Class 1 wetland (highest designation) 200 yards away and knew that it had proposed holes approved to go through it from another architect’s approved plan! I was only trying to alter the routing to keep the holes between the woodlots and out of the wetland because I thought it made for better holes, less disturbance and I didn’t like the idea of going near a wetland area.

Back to Castlestewart, the badger which is an extremely aggressive creature was nearly eradicated by farmers due to the nature of the animal. It is now endangered and there are badger experts who are brought in to protect any known badger dens in order to protect the species. Mark Parsinen was asked to bring in an expert and the council also hired their own. Now I best add these experts are not cheap! Well as it turns out the two experts could not agree what to do and fought constantly about how best to preserve the den (which nobody has ever seen active). Each time they met and disagreed you know somebody is left still paying the tab. Some argue that this would just be called a classic consulting tactic to increase the billable hours. So now there is protection around the den, too bad there seems to be no badgers.

The other thing they had to do a Castlestewart was to build a large, and I mean large, berm to block the view into the site. Makes sense, so the locals won’t have to look at the site right? No…. it blocks the view of the birds from their nesting area a mile or two down the coast. Apparently the site of construction drives the birds into being inadequate parents for their offspring (I guess). Just one thought, can’t birds fly?

If you wonder why we do this, this is just part of the approval process on may of our new projects. Protecting the environment is important; rationale thought would be even more helpful sometimes. I think they just forget we are all actually on the same side.

....and this concludes my writing on Scotland

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