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New law shapes golf course design

I like golf. While I was in college, I decided to take a class in golf - you could call it a “golf course” course. I figured it would be a great way to relax, enjoy nature, and (maybe) boost my grade point average at the same time! For a semester, I learned the basics: how to drive, chip, putt. It was enjoyable. Many of my classmates that semester had been golfing for years. They were better than me, but I was determined to get a good grade out of the class.

I got a “C.”

Years later, as a city council member in 1999, our golf courses were (and still are) a major draw for tourists and residents alike. The need to water to keep the grass lush and ponds full helped carve out Boulder City’s water allocation from Lake Mead. But in 2021, the Bureau of Reclamation announced an emergency shortage declaration for Lake Mead and the lower Colorado River Basin.

Legislative regulations (ABA 356) are forcing changes in landscaping for homes, businesses and municipalities. Grass in medians, roundabouts, business centers, HOA entrances and bordering parking lots and streets must be removed by 2026. Right now (but for a limited time) homeowners can get a rebate of up to five dollars per square foot of turf removed in their yards from the Southern Nevada Water Authority. (Visit www.snwa.org for details.) Water conservation measures have reduced usage/consumption, but just like an errant drive, we aren’t out of the woods yet.

So recently, when the city started talking about ways to curtail water usage I was understandably torn. Dozens of Clark County golf courses have already removed what they considered unneeded, unusable turf and replaced thirsty plants with drought-resistant foliage. Unlike 99% of water used in most homes in Clark County, water used for grass and plants that is not absorbed evaporates and can’t be reused. But here we are in Boulder City, one year later, still waggling our grip. We have puttered around long enough and time is running out to comply with the law.

Boulder City, for all its glory, has a long history of water waste. When I was elected to city council in 1999, I was surprised to learn that the water from our toilets that goes down our drains is only treated well enough to release into desert infiltration and evaporation channels, with a small amount sold for dust control. Founders of our city had not thought about the implications of a decades-long drought. (We still release at least 800,000 gallons of water a day into the desert, but we are getting closer to fixing that.)

Boulder City has been slower in this process than the rest of the region, but it’s time for us to pick up the pace. The claim that turf removal will cause property values to drop is unsupported. Property values on golf courses in the Las Vegas Valley continue to increase, even after the removal of grass behind homes that line these courses.

If Boulder City does not comply with the changes ordered by the Legislature, we will start having to pay fines in addition to the already costly water usage rates. Who pays for that? Residents and golfers. I, for one, do not want Boulder City to price itself out of having two beautiful municipal courses.

City staff has been working with Lage Design on making sure that we eliminate unnecessary turf at Boulder City Municipal Golf Course in a deliberate yet thoughtful manner, as well as replace the irrigation system that is completely outdated. There have been two meetings on this – one in City Council, and the other at the municipal golf course – to discuss the options, and a third one will be held in the coming weeks.

This isn’t a law that Boulder City can change – all of Nevada is required to comply. Turf must be reduced. Our neighbors have done it, and in speaking with golf courses where changes have already occurred, it has not impacted their bottom line. Hopefully our efforts today will put Lake Mead on the right course once again.

THE LATEST
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In early April, the City Council heard a presentation by Lage Design about staff’s recommended option to remove 35% of the turf at the Boulder City Municipal Golf Course.

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Is the grass always greener?

Many people in the past played a golf game to cement a business deal, didn’t they? They also played golf to socialize. Has Boulder City recognized lessening play on golf courses? Or, from another perspective, what happens when million-dollar homes are placed around our open space golf course with views of the McCullough Mountains? Do fewer people play golf on the Boulder Creek golf course?

Parting is such sweet sorrow

Shakespeare was the man when it came to comedy and tragedy. His ability to make people feel the intense emotions of the characters is still imitated today. The past few months have been filled with a bit of excited anticipation at City Hall as several longtime and high-level employees have found new roles in other acts. I’m here to borrow some Shakespearean lines, the first being from Ophelia, “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” (Hamlet)