Still plenty of birdies
Old Squires CC property has new life
he billboard on the highway still
pointed to Squires CC, and my all-
knowing GPS would have done the same.
I didn’t need help, though, because I had
often been to the course along the shore of
Lake Michigan just north of Port Washington.
But as I turned the bend and headed
toward the clubhouse something – no,
many somethings – were amiss. For one I
didn’t have to watch for balls slicing off the
first tee or hooking off the range, both of
which had long had the entrance road in
their sights. Where tightly mown fairways
once marked targets for tee shots, grass
had grown long and thousands of new
trees and bushes had been planted. There
were ponds – but not hazards – where
ponds had never been and while tee
boxes were still recognizable, the Squires’
greens were rough as, well, rough.
That’s what happens when golf goes away.
At least I went knowing the course has
been given new life as the Forest Beach
Migratory Preserve, not like the man who
pulled up last summer, popped the trunk,
grabbed his golf clubs and headed for the
first tee, only to find a group of young
people planting a butterfly garden. Imag-
ine his surprise to find a haven for birds
where he had hoped for birdies. Still, the
folks working on the changeover put him
on a golf cart, gave him a tour of progress
so far and got his grudging approval that
if it couldn’t be a golf course, a bird preserve was the next best thing.
It has been two years since the Ozaukee
Washington Land Trust acquired the 80-
year-old course from former owners Bruce
and Bonnie Bloemer, who fell victim to a
dramatic expansion of golf opportunities
in the area north of Milwaukee without
even a modest corresponding expansion
in golfer numbers. Heavy competition for
the leisure dollar, and leisure time, were
factors as well, so the decision was made
to sell to the land trust, which launched a
long-term plan to convert the once manicured course to a “patch quilt” of five-and 10-acre habitats aimed at attracting,
and supporting, different bird species. It is
a departure from other preserves in that,
instead of simply letting the land go wild,
said land trust executive director Shawn
Graff, it is being strictly managed in such a
way as to become a major destination for
birds and the birders who follow them.
WISCONSIN GOLFER l MAY/JUNE 2011
The old fifth hole at the former Squires CC is now part of wildlife preserve along Lake Michigan.
For that reason, the 18,000 new trees
and shrubs were selected for their specific
appeal as bird habitat, and the 20 new
ponds were designed so they can be filled
higher or drained to mud flats to appeal
to certain species of birds. By letting cool
weather grasses on the driving range
grow long, the site drew meadowlarks and
bob o’ links in the first season, “which was
amazing,” Graff said. Two blinds have
been erected so scientists can observe
birds without disturbing them, and two
observation decks were added as well.
The old Squires was fun to play and had
great views of Lake Michigan, but in truth
it was a bit quirky. Even on sunny days,
fog could roll in from the lake and leave
golfers shivering, and two holes required
shots over a ravine through which a road
meandered. Still, it had its fans and no
doubt some golfers find the change sad.
But clearly birds disagree. Already, some
190 species have been observed at the
site, Graff said, and projections are as many
as 300 could eventually be found there.
“Every monitoring they do, they find more
species,” he said, and there are now plans
for other birder or nature-oriented groups
to use the grounds for various projects.
Graff said there are plans for a marker
near the old first green that will recall the
land’s history as both a farm and a golf
course. That would be nice. While the
look of the land still says golf, it will fade.
On my way out I stopped to watch
Canada geese land in a pond on the old
third fairway. You don’t remember a pond
there? I don’t, either.
That’s what happens when golf goes
Regular contributor Dennis McCann’s latest book,
“Badger Boneyards” – a colorful look at Wisconsin
cemeteries – is in bookstores now.