Imagine having an irrigation system installed in your yard. Multiply that by 100. Now you’ve just installed 1,200 sprinkler heads like the Estes Valley Recreation and Park District is doing at the 18-hole golf course.
Those new sprinklers heads are part of a massive new irrigation system being installed now. The new system replaces an old one that was installed in 1977.
“The current system is inefficient with water use,” explained John Feeney, District Maintenance Manager for EVRPD who is in charge of all of the turf at the 18-hole golf course, the 9-hole golf course and the ball fields at Stanley Park . “We don’t have a lot of control over where the water is dispersed. We end up having too much water in some spots and not enough in other areas.”
The current system has 500 heads and throws water 95 feet. This new system has more than twice the number of heads with a throwing distance of 65 feet.
“More sprinkler heads will allow us to be more efficient with the water,” Feeney said. “Each head is independently controlled by a computer in my office. We can run the heads on mounds more than those in lower areas.”
The new irrigation system will also allow Feeney and his staff to do some turf reduction, reducing the amount of turf grass that is maintained and concentrating the water more in the playing areas.
The sod outside of the play area that will be removed will be harvested and used by the contractor to repair the work they are doing now.
“The alternative would be buying sod from the valley and shipping it up,” Feeney noted. “It never really matches the existing turf because this course has been here for a hundred years. It’s a rich mixture of annual bluegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial rye grass and fescue.”
EVRPD Executive Director Tom Carosello said the District secured a 20-year loan for the project to keep annual payments as low as possible. The cost is about $2.3 million. The amount of funding from each budget line item used to pay off the loan will change from year to year.
“The current plan is to use a mix of funding, with some coming from the Golf Improvement Fund (which includes golf revenue/reserves generated from green fees, annual passes, etc.), some coming from the Conservation Trust Fund (which is annual lottery money received from the state each year) and some coming from the 2008 operational levy approved by District voters (in perpetuity) for maintenance and improvements to facilities.”
For the 2022 loan payment, 18% is coming from the Golf Improvement Fund, 24% from the Conservation Trust Fund and 58% from the 2008 levy.
Feeney said turf grass is important in urban areas and mountain towns like Estes Park.
“Having big spaces of turf grass has a cooling effect on the immediate area,” he pointed out. “It helps filter sediment and other contaminants which can leech into ground water. The grass and root systems allow all of those materials to be captured in the turf canopy.”
The golf course will have its own weather station which will communicate with the irrigation software and provide an estimate of how much water the turf lost in the last 24 hours due to wind conditions and temperatures.
Evapotranspiration is the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces and by transpiration from plants. Knowing what has transpired in the last day will allow the EVRPD to only put down as much water as is needed to make up for what was lost, taking much of the guesswork out of the process.
The project began this spring with holes on the north side of the course. Construction crews will pause for the summer and resume in the fall with a plan for completion in December.
“I’m so excited about this project,” Feeney emphasized. “This has been something that EVRPD has needed for a long time. It will allow us to provide a better playing surface and reduce operation costs in the long run.”