Travel writers to walk lightly in Riding Mountain

Dragonfly at sunset, Lake Audy, Riding Mountain National ParkWe are honoured to be able to offer the Wild Serenity (#RMwild) itinerary (Manitoba’s only itinerary for GoMedia) for a group of Canadian and international travel writers from September 14 – 18, 2011. With the assistance of Travel Manitoba, our provincial tourism agency, we are looking forward to introducing a number of pre-qualified writers – writers who have chosen to come here – to the Riding Mountains. This is about “experiential travel” (where travellers learn by doing), in the fall, in Manitoba, Canada.

What is GoMedia? GoMedia Canada Is a Canadian marketplace where  Canadian travel organizations get together to tell Canadian and international journalists about some of Canada’s best travel stories. And, just so you know, these stories are not always the ones that are in the news, or at the top of a mountain, or in a famous hotel.

So, what do we have planned? They will taste local foods (regional Riding Mountain cuisine), meet local folks who live here and are part of our local culture or arts scene, go for a walk in the woods, learn what “elk bugling” sounds like, provide opportunities for them to photograph the park and area. They will be off-the-beaten path on side roads, off-trail on animal trails, and perhaps doing some things that they have never done before.

We are pleased that many of our local partners will be providing them with unique experiences. The Elkhorn Resort and Solstice Spa is their base. Riding Mountain National Park is providing a number of unique experiences. Dauphin Tourism, Fort Dauphin and local partners will take us into the heart of local cultural traditions. Jeff Bettle at the Old Church Pottery & Gift in Minnedosa will introduce us to some of his unique pottery with a new experience called Fire & Earth. A signature fall meal will be provided by Siesta Cafe‘s Vaughn Barkman. Clear Lake Golf Course will take them on a behind-the-scenes insight what makes the golf course such a leader in green golf course management. Earth Rhythms will be the primary hosts here in Riding Mountain. We are a boutique tourism operator, creating customized itineraries for small groups year-round. We welcome these travel writers here!

Bees, Bears, Bio-Diesel, and Birds – New Golf Course Management

It’s been my pleasure to watch Greg Holden and the management team at Clear Lake Golf Course over the last 16 years shift the management regime from a traditional turf management approach to one that integrates all aspects of sustainability into its operations. Today, May 1, 201o, the Globe & Mail featured the Clear Lake Golf Course in Riding Mountain National Park in article about four top “green golf courses” in Canada.

Brain Kendall, author of the article writes..”…All across Canada, courses are dramatically cutting back on the use of water and pesticides, welcoming home birds and animals once regarded as pests, restocking ponds with indigenous fish and coming up with ingenious initiatives to transform the image of a sport long under attack by environmentalists… ” He tees up his article on Canadian environmentally friendly golf courses by featuring Tees With Bees (Bell Bay, Cape Breton); Make Way With Bear (Stewart Creek Golf & C0untry Club, in Alberta’s Bow Valley); Cravings At Clear Lake (Clear Lake Golf Course, Manitoba); and Birdies and Birdwatching (Victoria’s Cordova Bay Golf Course).

Greg won a Manitoba Eco-Network‘s top environmental award in 2009 for the work that they have been doing. And, the Clear Lake Golf Course was also a finalist in last year’s Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s national awards of excellence in the category of “sustainable tourism”.

Earth Rhythms (a Riding Mountain-based learning adventure company) offers a personalized behind-the-scenes electric golf cart experience for small groups by advance reservation.  Turning Green Into Gold – featuring Greg’s stories about thousands of gallons of water saved, innovative gardening tips, use of natural pest fighting agents, an understanding of bio-diesel used in golf course maintenance vehicles, and short excursions to his favorite clipping’s nutrient piles, being at the heart of his “gold compost” resource stream production centre, and seeing some of  innovations in sustainable best practices are featured. This short, 2-hour program will turn your head, inspire you, and hopefully enable you to follow this up with a new appreciation for the history, ecology, and outstanding golf that is offered at Riding Mountain’s Clear Lake Golf Course.

Way to go Greg and team! It seems appropriate to tip our hats to Greg as the new 2010 President of the Canadian Golf Course Superintendent’s Association. This modest leader and pioneer in best practices of sustainable golf course management has much to offer visitors, golfers and the golf industry. He’d be the first to be cautious in handing out advice – but, he is willing to share his own experiences. His are first-class stories of carbon footprint reduction, recycling, and turning waste into resource streams.

An excerpt from this unique “experiential tourism program” will be experienced by 15 international travel buyers from India, China, Japan, the UK and Korea during the first week of May, 2010 as part of Travel Manitoba’s hosting of Rendezvous Canada – an international marketplace for travel buyers of distinctive Canadian experiences.

Clear Lake Golf Course - a Canadian leader in sustainability

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!

Clear Lake Golf Course (Onanole, Manitoba) is national finalist in Tourism Industry Awards

Clear Lake Golf Course - No 17 Green - a signature golf experience

Clear Lake Golf Course - No 17 Green - a signature golf experience

There is a buzz happening in Onanole, on the heels of the recently completed Sonics and Sojourns Festival of Learning and Music.  We have just learned that the team at the Clear Lake Golf Course (in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba) is short-listed as one of three finalists for the Parks Canada-sponsored Sustainable Tourism Award in the annual Tourism Industry of Canada’s national tourism awards.  This is a big deal!

The Clear Lake Golf Course is already a Canadian and world leader in operating with a new model of business savvy in a carbon-constrained world.   Their 16 year operation of the Clear Lake Golf Course includes one of Canada’s finest examples of green golf course management, a restaurant featuring local foods, a waste vegetable oil recycling and bio-diesel program, and investments that they have provided to support our community’s Onanole Community Centre.

This is what is meant by Triple Bottom Line accounting – when a business is profitable over the long term, environmentally accountable throughout its operations, and socially responsible through its human resource operations and support of local community. A great example of a sustainable business.

Great job Clear Lake Golf Course team !  Which includes leaders like Greg Holden, Ian and Lydia Sarna, Scott Shelbourne, and Ilse Mohn and many others who annually provide great service, welcome visitors each year, or carefully apply garlic extracts or tea tree oil on the golf course.   We are proud of you!

Clear Lake Golf Course environmental management approach praised

August 22, 2009  – Great article in the Brandon Sun about the responsible environmental management approach at the Clear Lake Golf Course, in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba.  Canada.  Read the article here.

In a really good tribute to triple bottom line accounting, the Clear Lake Golf Course is demonstrating that environmental leadership, profitability, and social responsibility work together as a sound business management practice.  There are lots of nay-sayers out there who keep saying that “green jobs” or the new green economy or a strong government policy framework that reduces carbon emissions will cost our economy.  I don’t believe it, not for a moment.  As with any shifts in business management or economic frameworks, it involves sound research, a commitment to sound business principles, and a systematic approach based on underlying principles or core values that are about care for our planet.

Clivus Compost toilet at Clear Lake Golf Course

Clivus Compost toilet at Clear Lake Golf Course

The Clear Lake Golf Course, because of a strong commitment from Parks Canada management over 16 years ago, in which Riding Mountain National Park required the bids for the 25-year management of the Clear Lake Golf Course to include an operational plan for environmentally sound management, shifted things.  Instead of “business as usual”, the golf course had to demonstrate major improvements in management of water, chemicals, turf management as well as being fiscally sound and turning a good profit that was in the interests of golfers, the management company of the golf course, and Parks Canada as the lessor.

The management team including Ian and Lydia Sarna and recent Manitoba Eco-Network award winning golf course superintendent Greg Holden have done all of that and much more. So have many of their other team members in the kitchen, the restaurant, the grounds operation, the bio-diesel, and in the pro shop.  Our hats off to this team.

Read this excellent two-page spread by Joanne Villeneuve, in the Brandon Sun that profiles all of the many environmentally responsible tactics that are being used on the Clear Lake Golf Course.  This course is a demonstration to the rest of the world of how golf courses should be operated, in my view.  As a long-time golfer, environmentalist, and business owner, I am proud to have this golf course in my backyard.  Earth Rhythms regularly features Greg Holden in our customized group programs.

Clear Lake Golf Course offers new cuisine in 2009

I have had the opportunity to experience the cuisine of Executive Chef Ilse Mohn and Sous-Chef Chad Robinson on more than one occasion this year. As well, a number of other local people have been experiencing their flavors this summer. The verdict: very good quality, great service, new!

Bison carpaccio appetizer with Manitoba Bothwell cheese

Bison carpaccio appetizer with Manitoba Bothwell cheese

One group that we had here last week had requested a unique lunch menu as part of a customized GPS adventure quest that we created for their sales team.

I worked with the team at the Clear Lake Golf Course (Riding Mountain National Park) to create an imaginative and never-before delivered combination of flavours, textures and presentation that left our group not just satisfied, but clearly surprised and delighted.

I love this aspect of experiential tourism – crafting one of a kind experiences that under-promise mystery and intrigue, while over-delivering surprises, moments of delight, and in the words of one member of our group, “I’ve been here before several times, but never had this…It was great.”

Great cuisine is something that people will travel for long distances, to experience.  In particular, we featured local bison, Manitoba cheese, local herbs, local baking, local recipes, and local berries in the saskatoon tarts (that we made under the watchful guidance of Ilse herself).  Congratulations to Ilse and Chad and the entire team at the Clear Lake Golf Course restaurant.  Keep it up!

Greg Holden shares his appreciation for 2009 Environmental Award

 

Greg Holden, Superintendent of Clear Lake Golf Course receives Environmental Award

Greg Holden, Superintendent of Clear Lake Golf Course receives Environmental Award

On June 9th, in Winnipeg, Greg Holden from the Clear Lake Golf Course was awarded the 2009 Manitoba Eco-Network environmental award in the Special Category, recognizing his leadership and commitment to environmental sustainability.  Anne Lindsey, the Executive Director introduced the awards.  Celes Davar shared a few words about why he nominated Greg, and introduced Greg.  

The inscription on the award reads…

“The Manitoba Eco-Network Environmental Award presented to Greg Holden, Given in recognition of significant contributions to the awareness and protection of Manitoba’s environment.  June 9, 2009”

Congratulations Greg…from everyone in this community!

See and listen to Greg’s thoughts and appreciation at the award ceremony in this short video highlight.