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There’s homework to be done to prepare for that first IPM public meeting: Prieur


March 12, 2012
By Mike Jiggens


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Most Ontario golf courses will be required this year to conduct their
inaugural public meetings to discuss their integrated pest management
operations with their respective communities. The provincial
government-mandated meetings represent the concession golf courses have
had to make in order to continue to use certain pest control products
and maintain their exception status with the Ontario cosmetic pesticide
ban act.

The majority of golf courses required to conduct public meetings this year have yet to do so, and some superintendents are unsure what exactly is required of them or how they should proceed.publicmeetingweb

The issue was addressed in February at the annual winter seminar of the Greater London Area Golf Superintendents Association at the Westhaven Golf & Country Club. Mark Prieur, superintendent at the Trafalgar Golf & Country Club in Milton and voice of the Ontario Golf Superintendents Association on the IPM Council of Canada, briefed the gathering on their responsibilities and helped to alleviate some of the confusion surrounding the issue.

With Dec. 1 as the deadline for holding the required meeting, superintendents should ideally be using some of their off-season time to get much of their pre-meeting work done, he said. This includes the establishment of a database of names and contact information of individuals required by the Ministry of the Environment to be notified in advance of the meeting.

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The ministry has mandated that all neighbouring property owners, whose properties are located within 100 metres of the golf course property, be notified of the meeting no more than 15 days prior to the event.

Golf courses situated in rural areas may have only a handful of neighbouring property owners to notify while courses located within city limits could have schools, factories and large apartment buildings as their immediate neighbours, requiring them to not only notify the property owners themselves, but to ensure all personnel connected to those properties are duly notified as well.

“You can’t leave this until the last minute,” Prieur said.

Superintendents looking for guidance in this task should visit the websites of the IPM Council of Canada and the OGSA, he recommended.

In addition to notifying neighbouring property owners, an advertisement to announce the meeting must be placed in the local newspaper whose general circulation serves that area. Placement of the advertisement must also be made no more than 15 days prior to the meeting.

Prieur said the superintendent, general manager or course owner must anticipate the number of expected attendees to determine if the meeting can be held at the golf course or if a larger off-site facility should be booked. The meeting should also be scheduled at a time of day which is convenient for most to attend.

The individual assigned to preside over the meeting, whether it is the superintendent, general manager or a third party, should be a skilled public speaker and have the ability to control a meeting, Prieur suggested.

“Having a meeting agenda is an important tip on keeping control of the meeting.”

He advised the superintendent anticipate what questions might arise during the meeting. Queries which may not be answered to the questioner’s satisfaction can be referred to either the IPM accreditation program’s or MOE’s websites for further exploration. Prieur said there may be questions asked to explain why some pesticides may be applied but others can’t.

Prior to the public meeting deadline of Dec. 1, golf courses must present to the IPM Council their 2011 annual reports and property maps which indicate where products have been applied. The IPM Council stated the deadline for 2011 submissions was Jan. 31 which contradicts the MOE’s announced June deadline for submissions and Internet uploading. Prieur said he believes the IPM Council’s statement supersedes that of the MOE’s.

The annual report must be verbally presented at the meeting. As such, it is important the presenter is able to properly pronounce the names of products used on the golf course, Prieur said.

In both the hard copy of the annual report and its verbal presentation, it is best to use terminology that is more flattering to the profession’s image. Prieur said “apply” works better than “spray,” and “minimize” is a better choice than “reduce.”

Visual aids, such as Power Point presentations, overhead projections and handouts, can be used to assist in the delivery of the annual report.

Prieur presented a seven-minute video to his GLAGS audience which is available for downloading by OGSA members. The video, which uses layman’s terms to address a variety of environmental issues, is a tool some superintendents may find helpful to use at their public meeting.

The video explains:
• the benefits of golf, how it benefits the economy, tourism and charitable fundraisers.
• the environmental and physical benefits of golf.
• the serious damages that can be inflicted upon golf courses if pests are left unchecked.
• how IPM is practised in an environmentally-friendly manner.
• why only certified applicators are able to apply products which themselves are both certified and regulated for use.
• that pest control products are also used in pet flea collars, mosquito repellents and pool maintenance products.
• that pesticides are used by farmers to produce safe and affordable food.
• that all pest control products must undergo a thorough assessment with regard to its safety and that it meets Health Canada’s strict standards.
• that pest control products are studied extensively to ensure they have no detrimental impact on beneficial insects or plants.
• that when pesticides are used on golf courses, they are being used responsibly and have been thoroughly assessed for their safety.

Some in the audience said they felt that presenting the video at their particular public meeting could “open up a can of worms,” suggesting it could spark some negativity among those who attend.

Prieur said he believes most club members aren’t particularly concerned if pesticides are used or not, but added the meetings are apt to attract several non-golfers since they are open to the community.

“Hold the public meeting. Run it as smoothly and orderly as possible, and move on. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

He said once the meeting is closed, the superintendent has fulfilled that part of his mandated obligations.

It is a good idea for superintendents to conduct a “dry run” of the meeting in front of his staff, Prieur said. Rehearsing the meeting will also ensure all electronic equipment slated for use, including TV monitors, microphones and computers, will work properly.

Prieur said it would be to the host superintendent’s benefit if other nearby superintendents attended the meeting to offer their moral support.

Some superintendents have wondered if it might be beneficial for two or more golf courses from the same general vicinity to conduct one joint meeting so that they can pool their resources and save on overhead expenses. Prieur said it is permissible to do so, but each individual golf course property must still make its own presentation. A possible drawback to that strategy, he said, is that one golf course might have applied more of a particular product than another course represented at the meeting, and things could get “dicey” in trying to explain why that was the case.

Because 2012 is the first year of the mandated public meetings, superintendents are apt to find preparing for them may be a tedious chore, Prieur said, but he added they can help ensure a smoother process the following year by adopting some simple strategies this year.

A sign-in table, for example, can be set up at the meeting place entrance whereby attendees would be encouraged to provide their name, address and telephone number to help establish a database for 2013. Anyone who poses a question at the meeting should also be asked his name and contact information, he added. Regulations don’t require these practices, but superintendents can ask for such information.

As part of his address, Prieur presented a mock annual report to demonstrate how they should be concise and to the point yet properly address key points.

“Doing your annual report should be like a skirt. You want to make it long enough to cover the bare essentials, but you’ve got to keep it short enough to keep everybody interested.”

The section of the report headed “Reasons for difference from previous calendar year” needs to be filled in carefully, he said.

“How you write that is really, really, really important.”

Under that section of the mock report, he noted a lesser amount of a particular product was used in 2011 from the previous year due to warmer, drier weather. It was stated another product was used more in 2011 for dollar spot and snow mould control than applied the previous year because pressures were greater in 2011.

The report also calls for the superintendent to list the pest control products by active ingredient, the reason for their use, the total quantity used, and the reason for any difference from the previous calendar year.

If there was no change from the previous season, that must also be stated, Prieur said.

In total, his mock annual report was two pages in length along with a short blurb about thresholds and monitoring.
A good way for superintendents to present their product usage maps is to visit www.scribblemaps.com, a free-use website which runs off Google Earth. It allows one to access a map of his golf course property and add text, images and other overlays to better demonstrate where products have been used. It can then be saved in jpeg format for printing and uploading.