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Environment and Conservation Unveils Electric Golf Equipment at the Bear Trace at Harrison Bay

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | 11:05am

Maintenance Equipment Will Save Taxpayer Dollars, Benefit the Environment and Improve Golfing Experience

CHATTANOOGA – Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau, TDEC Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill and Senator Bo Watson today unveiled the new electric golf course equipment at the Bear Trace at Harrison Bay Golf Course.

The event showcased the new maintenance equipment, while demonstrating its positive environmental impacts and energy savings, among other benefits. Attendees included members of the community, golfing enthusiasts, power industry representatives, equipment manufacturers and local park supporters. 

Using funds provided by the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant program, the Bear Trace at Harrison Bay replaced gasoline-powered golf course equipment with battery-powered options including greens and approach mowers, bunker rakes, greens rollers, and utility vehicles.   Equipment manufacturers represented at today’s event included Jacobsen, Smithco, Tru Turf, Toro Workman and Club Car. 

Overall, the new equipment will provide an estimated 300 percent decrease in annual operating expenses and a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.  Coupled with the overall economic and environmental benefits, the electric equipment is virtually silent when it operates, minimizing noise that could disturb both golfers and wildlife.  Additionally, there are no fluids to manage, such as hydraulic or other automotive fluids, reducing potential impacts to vegetation and ground water, while also reducing staff resources. 

"This initiative is the first of its kind at a Tennessee State Parks golf course and we are thrilled to support the electric equipment initiative with funds from the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant program," said Martineau.  "The project exemplifies the environmental protection, fiscal soundness, and community benefits that are at the heart of sustainability."

According to TDEC’s Office of Sustainable Practices, the project has similar benefits as those touted for electric vehicles, further multiplied in the fact that lawn mowers and other small engines do not have the same pollution control measures required of larger pieces of equipment with internal combustion engines.  The first EPA requirements for lawnmowers began in 1997 and much of the replaced equipment at Harrison Bay predated those pollution reduction measures.  Although limited data is available, a 2005 study by the University of Florida reports that “gasoline-powered mowers result in as much as 1,500 times more carbon monoxide, 31 times more hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides and 18 times more carbon dioxide than the electric varieties.”

“The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay has already set the bar high for exceptional performance, receiving numerous awards, accolades, and certifications for their hard work,” said Hill.  “Their recognized efforts include a number of improvements on the environmental front, such as water quality and conservation, wildlife and habitat management, and reduction in chemical usage.” 

Hill added the course has installed 45 nesting houses, created a large plant bed comprised of 218 plants native to Tennessee, and renovated the golf course's chemical storage facility.  With all of these improvements, Bear Trace at Harrison Bay ranks one out of 765 golf courses certified by Audubon International and one of only ten in the state of Tennessee. 

In addition, approximately 40 acres have been naturalized to minimize maintenance and the turf grass on the putting greens has been changed from "bent grass" to Champion Ultradwarf Bermuda grass – reducing the course's chemical use and budget from $39,000 to $8,000 annually. 

The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay has been recognized twice as a Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award winner for their continued progress.  They were also recognized with the Environmental Leaders in Golf Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America for the past four consecutive years (2009-2012) and won the prestigious national TurfNet Superintendent of the Year award in 2011, the first and only time this honor was bestowed in the state of Tennessee.

Funding for the Harrison Bay project comes from an April 2011 Clean Air Act settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Under the Consent Decree, Tennessee will receive $26.4 million over five years to fund clean air programs in the state (at approximately $5.25 million per year).  As part of the grant program’s initial offering, a total of $5.3 million in Clean Energy Grants was awarded in 2012 to a variety of projects within state government, municipalities, utilities, state colleges and universities and communities throughout the state. 

With more than 2,900 employees working across the state, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is a diverse and dynamic department, serving the state by (1) safeguarding the health and safety of Tennessee citizens from environmental hazards; (2) protecting and improving the quality of Tennessee's land, air and water; and (3) managing Tennessee’s 54 state parks, 83 natural areas and a variety of historical or archaeological sites.  For more information about the department, please visit

As part of Harrison Bay State Park, the Bear Trace at Harrison Bay is considered a true classic course, designed by Jack Nicklaus. Located approximately 20 minutes north of downtown Chattanooga, the Bear Trace at Harrison Bay is surrounded by both water and heavily-wooded land, creating an ideal setting for the course. Referred to as "the best natural piece of land for a golf course," the Bear Trace at Harrison Bay features Bermuda fairways lined with soaring pine and hardwood trees. Fairway and green side bunkers are designed in the traditional Nicklaus fashion and add notable character to the overall integrity of the course. Like other courses in the collection, the emphasis on playability is clearly evident. The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay stretches from 7,140 yards (gold tees) to just under 5,300 yards (red tees).  For more information about the park and golf course, please visit


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