Golf has a love/hate relationship with environmentalists. On one hand, most courses preserve a large chunk of land that wildlife, for the most part, is left to their own devices. However, on the other hand, some of the chemicals, water and abandoned equipment used can have a negative impact on that same plot of land.
While the fight between golfers and environmentalists will likely rage on as long as golf is played, an Alaskan restaurant has been forced to remove one of its attractions — a short par-3 golf hole the spans the width of the Chena River in Fairbanks — The Associated Press reports:
A complaint has driven a Fairbanks hotel and restaurant to stop offering patrons the opportunity to smack golf balls across the Chena River.
Pike’s Landing suspended the long-running game after a complaint that most golf balls fell short of the “green” about 100 yards away on the far side of the Chena, entered the water and washed downstream, possibly endangering wildlife.
Mike Solter, a water rules compliance manager for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, confirmed Monday that Pike’s Landing had suspended the game but is looking for a way to resume it.
“This is something that, as I understand it, is important to them and they would like to continue it,” Solter said. “We want to work with them to see if there’s a way we can make that happen.”
Pike’s Landing is owned by former state Rep. Jay Ramras. Messages seeking comment were not immediately returned.
The game was stopped after a complaint by Anchorage environmental activist Rick Steiner, a former University of Alaska Fairbanks professor, who stopped at the restaurant on the way back from a trip to the upper Noatak River in the Gates of the Arctic National Park. Steiner in an email said Alaska’s rivers are “sacred shrines” that should be respected and protected.
“Disposing of golf balls in them does the opposite,” he said.
Steiner asked the DEC to investigate what appeared to be a clear violation of state and federal water pollution regulations — intentionally discarding plastics into a salmon stream.
“Golf balls are a prominent component of plastic marine debris in the global ocean, and they are often mistaken as prey items by seabirds and other marine animals,” he said.
They easily flow downstream, he said, and at the rate of 1 mph, could reach the Bering Sea in one to two months. Scores of golf balls have been found in in dead albatross stomachs on coral atolls in the central Pacific, Steiner said, and in the stomachs of dead whales.
Steiner isn’t stopping with Pike’s Landing, either. He’s looking into lodging a complaint against the Bering Sea Ice Golf Classic that take place around the same time as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which sees a number of golf balls lost in the snow and ice.
The battle continues.