Ethan Elliott Cundiff, Nzuri Marloe McCree, Mikey Mlakar
When you think golf, we want you to think G.O.L.F: Generating Ohio's Landscape Futures. In Ohio, golf courses offer critical habitat-forming opportunities in otherwise populous, semi-urban, and suburban areas, as well as pre-existing topography in largely flat areas. The Wilding project tasked students with the transformation of, at minimum, one-quarter of the acreage of the OSU Golf Course in Arlington, OH to support a chosen plant and animal species, or the rewilding of golf course landscapes.
Students groups chose a minimum of three plants and three animals around which to fashion their landscape. In making their selection, they sought to identify species that bear some relationship to one another, whether they tolerate the same ecologies or belong to overlapping trophic webs.
Environmental historian Peter Coates writes that “we have so thoroughly domesticated the earth and modified natural processes that it is no longer possible to speak of nature as something with a separate existence… the world is now entirely of our own making.” So, how does one “rewild” in a “post-wild” world?
By necessity, these wild landscapes are human constructions; think of them not as a restoration but a projection. While a site’s historic landscape conditions can and should inform the choices made by a designer, moments in time from the past are not reinstalled or recreated. Instead, these design approaches are formed in response to the site's present and future conditions. The approaches to rewilding are conceived of and represented across three phases of the designs.
1 Grading and Soil Amendment
Once the focus species were selected, the surface morphology of the designs were modified to accommodate future plant and animal communities.
First, there is an attempt to identify areas of the site that may already be compatible with the ecologies intended to be developed. Then, topographic adjustments are made to support and enhance the process that occurs within the ecologies. Lastly, if necessary, the soil is amended so that plant species may be cultivated in the ecologies.
Consideration for how soil in the sites could be transformed over time with the aid of specific plant communities, minimal maintenance regimes, plant decomposition, and more was permitted. Geological materials such as cracked rocks or minerals (like limestone) were also permitted to be included.
2 Landscape Transition and Overhaul
This phrase encompasses an operation, or series of operations, that set into motion the large-scale transformation in the sites. Depending on the chosen ecologies, some aspects of the site’s current conditions may have needed to be "unmade." Steps may include removing dams and/or daylighting existing streams, initiating reforestation, sowing or seeding large portions of land, and/or enabling flooding of the landscape to develop the site's novel ecologies. This series of operations will not occur all at once -- rather, they may unfold over years.
Unlike the major interventions that occurred during landscape transition and overhaul, regularized landscape maintenance might occur annually if not seasonally, monthly, or weekly. Maintenance may include, for example, controlled burns of weeding. Planting regimes that require artificial irrigation were avoided; Landscapes are self-supporting and low-maintenance. Animals played critical roles in the maintenance of landscapes and were accounted for in all the maintenance plans. Maintaining a healthy landscape does not imply that the landscape ceases to change. Rather, the maintenance strategies accounted for and integrated fluctuations that related to the site ecosystems.
Golf courses provide an ideal condition for testing rewilding as an ecological strategy not only for their spatial and environmental aspects but also, increasingly, for reasons economic and social. According to the National Golf Foundation, the number of golfers in America peaked in 2003 at 30.6 million. As of 2017, that number had declined to 23.8 million. As a result, more than 800 golf courses have closed across America in the last decade. In the last 5 to 7 years alone, Franklin County has witnessed the closure of seven courses: Walnut Hills, Shamrock Golf Club, Riviera Country Club, Minerva Lake Golf Club, Heritage Golf Club, and Ballantrae. These amenity courses are typically built on land "proscribed from redevelopment by local zoning codes seeking to preserve open space." In other words, the land occupied by amenity courses must remain "open" even after such a course has failed. This has led to some courses becoming nature preserves. We propose an alternative, experimental approach: rewilding.