Our History

The Landings Club on Skidaway Island has six 18-hole golf courses on an inner barrier island of coastal Georgia that runs 8 miles north to south and 3 miles across. The island is a maritime forest bordered by salt marshes, lush with pines and palms, wax myrtle and native azalea. Among the hundreds of birds that nest here or pass through are indigo buntings, ruby throated hummingbirds and blue birds. Herons and egrets are year-round residents. Bald eagles and ospreys nest and fish here. There’s a significant, managed, deer population. There are approximately 150 lagoons at The Landings.  Half are fresh water filled with large mouth bass.  The other lagoons are of brackish tidal water from the waterways surrounding the island.  These lagoons are frequented by nearly all of the species of salt water fish that are found along the southeast coast.”  Around the borders of the nearly 4000 homes in the community there are no fences – as mandated by covenants that serve to protect the unique habitat. Nature moves at will. Homes and the golf courses at The Landings exist within the flow.

For a wonderful recap of the 16-year history of Skidaway Audubon in the words of one of its founders, see Dick Miller’s booklet: Environmental Stewardship at The Landings: A Priority That Defines Us.

ACSP at The Landings Club

Mindful of this environment, a committee of The Landings Club was formed in 1997 to explore certification of the six courses under the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP) for Golf Courses, a relatively young program of Audubon International, itself only seven years old at the time. And, with a commitment from both member volunteers and staff, all six courses met the requirements to be designated Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries by 2002. The six-stage certification process includes environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, outreach and education, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation and water quality management. The process does not end with certification but rather each course must be re- certified every two years. Of all the 1900 courses in the U.S. participating in the program, only 38% have received full certification. The program is supported by the PGA Tour and by USGA. As the club went though the certification process, it was recognized that our golf courses and grounds maintenance staff, in many ways, were already managing our courses in an environmentally effective manner; however a number of new initiatives were directly or indirectly related to the Audubon program. The Golf Course Maintenance staff has embraced the principles of the ACSP and utilized them in the nurturing of the turf on our courses. Practices such as fertigation, irrigation programming using evapotranspiration information and scouting for pest and disease pressure are but a few examples of the sound environmental practices that are deployed. In succeeding years, projects funded by the annual Skidaway Audubon golf tournament, now entering its 17th year, continued to enhance out of play areas (120 of 650 acres are out of play), among them the installation of native plants, protection of lagoon shorelines, planting wildflowers, removing invasive trees, establishing a bluebird trail and habitat restoration. Today, nearly 200 projects have been completed adjacent to the courses under the stewardship of Skidaway Audubon, now a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, as part of the every-other-year certification process.

Audubon in the Community

In the fall of 2004, Ron Dobson, then President of Audubon International, visited The Landings. He challenged the community to take our successes on the golf courses and expand into broader community endeavors. An Audubon for Neighborhoods Committee was formed as a sub-committee under the Landings Association Department of Public Works. It took off on the coattails of an already successful combined community effort of The Landings Club and Association, along with volunteer organizations and craftsmen, that resulted in the development of the 2 ½-mile Nature Trail, a core amenity to The Landings. The broader initiative encouraged better environmental practices on a community wide basis. A “Green Team” promoting homes, churches and business on Skidaway Island to recycle, evolved into a full-blown Recycling Center that opened on island in January of 2008. Also, a volunteer litter pick-up program – -The Bottle Brigade — was started and The Tallow Terrors initiative, educating the community about invasive species and organizing a volunteer effort to control them, began. The Birders in our community continued to bring us national recognition in bird counts throughout the year, receiving 1st Place in the North American Birdwatch Open sponsored by Audubon International. The Community Audubon Committee was also privileged to participate in the Georgia Outdoors filming of a TV episode for Georgia Public TV which included a segment about The Landings Community Environmental Stewardship, a program that aired in October 2008.

Becoming Skidaway Audubon

In 2007, Skidaway Community Audubon also incorporated and filed an application for tax-exempt status. This became a reality in 2009 — with yet another new name, Skidaway Audubon, Inc. At this time, the committee also began exploring starting a community garden. An Audubon committee representative was appointed to the Deer Creek Golf Course Renovation Oversight Committee, providing awareness when needed on the environmental impact of new course construction.

Natural Landscaping

In some cases, natural landscaping projects on the golf courses are identified with Skidaway Audubon signage. Most recent of these is behind the green at Marshwood 18, at Palemtto 18 and Oakridge 17. New native plant understory provides increased habitat for wildlife, reduces the need for irrigation, once plants are established, and enhances the beauty of the courses.

The Bluebird Trail

The Dave Scott Bluebird Trail is an on-going Audubon supported effort that now has a total of 151 nest boxes, dotting the edges of the fairways along all six courses, and in 2013 fledged 1052 birds. Volunteers monitor, repair and replace the nest boxes. Golf maintenance and staff relocate them as necessary. The trail is the largest monitored trail in the southeast.

Chuck Owen, who managed the trail for nearly twenty years, was awarded a Skidaway Audubon Environmental Stewardship Award in 2010.

Trees

The Landings Club revised its tree policy some years ago to better recognize the value of trees for wildlife habitat and natural beauty. Dead trees have been left on some of the golf course areas to provide homes for cavity nesting birds. For each specimen tree removed during renovation projects, a new specimen tree is planted.

Every effort is made to limit pruning and tree removal during the bird-nesting season, from February through September.

And a major effort has been made to remove invasive Chinese Tallow Trees from four of the six courses with a volunteer task force, the Tallow Terrors operating Mondays through throughout 2009 to 2014.  The Tallow Terrors and volunteers “hack and squirt” parties killed an estimated 50,000 trees and have moved into common property of the Landings Association to continue their efforts.

Ann Fenstermacher has spearheaded the education of islanders about this invasive since 2007, speaking, writing, distributing an educational brochure, becoming certified to use chemicals, tagging trees and organizing hack and squirt parties. She won a 2010 Skidaway Audubon Environmental Stewardship Award for her work.

Sparrow Field

A project begun by Skidaway Audubon several years ago, to turn a former sod nursery of the club (a 5-acre plot to the left of the 15th green of the Magnolia course, and reachable off Bartram Road just opposite Pettigrew Drive) into a nature refuge, has been revisited in the past year. It is the only open grass field on the island and many species of birds, rare to the rest of the island, have been identified. While refuge sites were built and food plots planted to meet the biological needs and habitat requirements for migrating birds, especially those indigenous to open space areas, Chinese tallow trees and other hard to control plants were proliferating. Skidaway Audubon funded the removal of huge trees and organized with The Landings Club, the Landings Association, the State Park (bordering the refuge), and leadership of the Chinese Tallow removal groups, to attack the problem of these invasives head on. A collaboration spearheaded by Skidaway Audubon’s Caryl Warner with interest groups of birders, native plant experts, those knowledgeable about pollinating insects, along with the enthusiastic participation of Tyson Helsel, Superintendent and the staff of the Magnolia course, has resulted in a new effort at the Sparrow Field. Fitz Clarke’s outstanding photographic record of the activity of butterflies and other pollinators at the Sparrow Field and his dedication to the Pollinator Berm Garden have won him a 2011 Skidaway Audubon Environmental Stewardship Award. We are priviledged to share Fitz’s photos on this website. They will enable visitors to the Sparrow Field to know what to look for and to value the complexity of plant relationships with the insects that feed and breed here.

Lagoon Beautification

The three-year process which the Landings Association and Club participated in the mid- 2000s to achieve common goals for 151 lagoons developed a more integrated natural look between lagoons, shorelines and surrounding homes and golf courses. At the time, attractive native grasses, flowers and plants were used, as well as aquatic plants in freshwater lagoons. Saltwater lagoon shoreline plants regenerated themselves once mowing stopped. The program resulted in improved aesthetics, water quality, erosion control and habitat for fish and wildlife. A new program is underway with the Landings Association, and with participation from Chuck Smith, a longstanding member of Skidaway Audubon and of CCA, to study and review best practices in order to restore the beautification of the lagoons.

Water Conservation

Coincidental to going through Audubon certification, in 2000 the Club recognized the need to insure our golf courses would have an adequate, long-term water supply and an efficient system for dispensing it. In a move that looks prescient today, as permit levels for withdrawal are restricted, the Club also wanted to offset dependence on the Floridian aquifer. A plan was created and implemented which called for additional water sources via new shallow wells in spray fields, using reclaimed water, and use of water from lagoons, which are filled by rain. In addition new irrigation systems on five of the six courses use less water and distribute it via computerized irrigation heads more effectively. Estimated reduction in water usage is between 10 and 30 percent and 70% potable water.

In early 2010, Skidaway Audubon presented a panel discussion open to all island residents: Our Islands Water Conservation Imperative. This inaugurated a focus on water conservation with:

A booth, co-hosted by The Landings Club and Utilities Inc., our water provider, was a popular venue at the 2013 Home Renovation Expo, sponsored by The Landings Association.

Bottle Brigade

Nearly 70 residents participate as members of this on-island patrol, regularly working their assigned areas to keep the island litter free. Caryl Warner. member of Skidaway Audubon, and winner of the 2009 Volunteer of the Year Award, administers the program.

Diamondback Terrapin Project

In 2010, Skidaway Audubon embraced a project that had been underway for six years. Resident Carolyn McInerney had been rescuing diamondback terrapin eggs (a species of concern in Georgia) laid in golf course bunkers along several marsh holes, looking for the nests early each morning from April to August, ahead of course maintenance, golfers and predators. She would then allow the eggs to mature in flowerpots on her porch and release them as hatchlings. As part of the re-certification process, the naturalist under whose DNR permit Carolyn had been working, suggested that nest boxes be built near the bunkers to allow the eggs to mature safely and the hatchlings to make their own way into the marsh. Today these boxes, on Plantation #3 and #8, designed by the Director of Golf Maintenance South, Chris Steigelman, are in place providing an interesting educational component to play.

Carolyn received a Skidaway Audubon Environmental Stewardship Award in 2010.

Skidaway Farms

Skidaway Audubon is the founding partner of Skidaway Farms, which opened in February 2011. The farm operates under our not-for-profit status, providing an opportunity for the entire island to grow crops in a 2+ acre fenced (deer and hog proof) and sun-drenched garden.

This project was championed by Jerriann Kirkwood, president of Skidaway Audubon from 2005 to 2011, who collaborated with The Landings Club (the farm acreage is a former sod farm of the club) and the Landings Association to see it through to completion.

In addition to Jerriann, recipients of Founders Trowels at the opening ceremonies, in honor of the pivotal roles they played in establishing this new amenity, were: Shari Haldemann, Mike Perham, Paul Kurilla, Chris Johns and Blake Caldwell. Blake Caldwell headed up Skidaway Farms for both development and operations. For her dynamic leadership and her collaborative work alongside the Association’s Public Works Department and Valley Crest to open the gates to the farm in February of 2011, Blake received a 2011 Skidaway Audubon Environmental Stewardship Award.

For more information on Skidaway Farms, go to www.skidawayfarms.com

Fund Raising

The primary source of revenue for Skidaway Audubon is the annual golf tournament, started in 1998. Three divisions play, men’s, women’s and mixed, in a net two best ball format. The 17th annual tournament will be held on Monday, March 9, 2015 on the Palmetto and Plantation courses with a noon shotgun start.

Chairmen of this year’s tournament are Milda and Terry Blaney.

Environmental Stewardship at The Landings: A Priority That Defines Us

A review of a 16-year partnership with Audubon International, Landings Club and Landings Association professionals and residental volunteers to sustain and enhance the environment of The Landings. By Dick Miller, Chairman of Audubon Committee 1999-2001. Click Here to Read More

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