Clear Lake Golf Course – A vision about sustainability as “just doing the right thing”

These are ordinary folks doing extra-0rdinary things.  Ian Sarna, General Manager and Greg Holden, Superintendent of the Clear Lake Golf Course in Onanole, Manitoba are disappointed, yet happy to be in Saint John.  They were one of the finalists in the Parks Canada-sponsored Sustainable Tourism Award.   They have just witnessed 350 guests from all across Canada learn about the Clear Lake Golf Course during the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s national gala dinner and presentation of awards of excellence.  As Ian and Greg would say, “sustainability is not something separate from what they do”.  It’s just part of doing business right.   And, they’ve been doing it right for 16 years.

TIAC - Canadian Tourism Summit Gala dinner and National Tourism Awards of Excellence

IAC - Canadian Tourism Summit Gala dinner and National Tourism Awards of Excellence

Two other Manitoba tourism partners went away with the coveted Nova Scotian crystal trophies – The Air Canada Business of the Year to Wa’Chee Lodge from Churchill;  and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Event of the Year award to Folklorama.

The Clear Lake Golf Course had a vision 16 years ago of managing a golf course that exemplified and enriched the national park mandate.  They have delivered on that, in piles of compost, 300,000 litres of water saved annually with their composting toilet systems, recycling of all wastes and garbage, and use of bio-diesel.  As Greg says, “we’ve learned to turn what we used to call a waste stream – daily garbage from the restaurant and clippings from the golf course – into a resource stream”.  This has saved on annual financial expenses for purchase of inputs, and helped to establish a low carbon golfing experience at Riding Mountain National Park that is the best in Canada for demonstrating environmental leadership, giving back to community, and maintaining a very profitable business model.

I, too, am disappointed that they did not bring back crystal to Manitoba.  But, Greg and Ian both experienced the passion and pride that is part of Canada’s tourism industry….it was alive and tangible all evening long, as various tourism businesses were acknowledged, won crystal awards, or students won sustainable tourism scholarships, or we heard stories of excellence.

My sense is that the story of the Clear Lake Golf Course and golfing may not be completely understood, as a significant contributor to tourism.  The scale of the Clear Lake Golf Course’s annual revenues, re-investments, the work of their charitable foundation, and the leadership role that the golf course has taken from an environmental management perspective is world class.   No other golf course in Canada has taken the remarkable steps that this golf course has.  You will see the Clear Lake Golf Course nominated for other provincial and national awards.  Stay tuned!

Congratulations to the entire team at the Clear Lake Golf Course for having made it as a finalist in the TIAC annual tourism awards.   Well done!

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