Clear Lake Golf Course is an 18-hole public course located in one of Manitoba's top tourist attractions, Riding Mountain National Park. The course was built in two stages commencing in 1928. Since the current management team has been in place since 1993, the course has shifted from a conventional waste-stream generating course to a model of sustainability, innovation and recycling. Providing a top-quality golfing experience, Clear Lake Golf Course inherently promotes Riding Mountain National Park and the other tourist offerings and leisure opportunities in the area.
The course represents a unique integration of sustainability, charitable operation, outstanding regional cuisine, and year over year profitability.
The current members of the management team of Clear Lake Golf Course, including managers Ian and Lydia Sarna and superintendent Greg Holden, won the bid to run the course partly due to their focus on positive environmental practices. The group worked vigilantly to satisfy their objective to turn Clear Lake Golf Course from a traditionally operated golf course to an organic course, and the need to maintain a profitable business that was able to return annual contract revenues to the national park remained at the forefront.
The Response and the Result
Clear Lake Golf Course and its charitable arm, the Clear Lake Golf Foundation, have developed a business model which has resulted in a profitable tourism business for over 16 years. The conversion from a traditionally operated business to a facility which is over 85% organic has not interfered with the course's ability to return annual contract revenues to the national park, to support restaurant, club house and course staff, or to provide a premiere golf experience. The Clear Lake Golf Foundation contributes to various projects and initiatives within Riding Mountain National Park and the surrounding local communities.
The quality of play has been maintained, and in many ways improved, as the reliance on some chemical substances has been drastically reduced. With a beautiful creek running through four of the 18 holes, their inputs cannot jeopardize this aquatic ecosystem.
Clear Lake Golf Course has implemented the following initiatives in its quest for sustainability:
Clear Lake Golf Course has partnered with Earth Rhythms Inc., a Manitoba-based learning adventure company to provide "behind the scenes" experiences and workshops. Small groups of eco-tourists or corporate clients are taken on a tour of the facilities, which includes walking into the compost and checking its temperature, turning the piles, touching fresh clippings, tasting herbs in the gardens, seeing how bio-diesel is used and what it smells like coming out of the tractor motors, as well as exploring the ecological diversity of the course. Visitors leave feeling inspired, with a new sense of hope about how sustainable businesses can be managed, and asking themselves why this is not done on other green spaces around the world.
Clear Lake Golf Course has demonstrated that a commitment to sustainable golfing as a tourism activity can be centered on a conservation ethic, smart business management and minimizing impacts on the environment while generating a profit and being charitable at the same time. By maintaining a strong presence in the community, Clear Lake Golf Course and Clear Lake Golf Foundation are able to share their sustainability practices and success stories as a tourism operator. And through initiatives such as the Riding Mountain biodiesel program, where local restaurateurs turn waste cooking oil into biodiesel fuel, Clear Lake Golf Course is furthering public awareness of by encouraging other tourism business to participate in this or other sustainability programs.