Executive Director Report for the 2024 Annual General Meeting

Executive Director Report for the 2024 Annual General Meeting
prepared by Jerry Rousseau 

Executive Summary
After a three-year hiatus, our largest annual event made an extraordinary comeback in Feburary 2023, boasting record-breaking attendance and achieving substantial financial success. The three busy and enjoyable days at the RiverRock Casino Resort in Richmond, BC were made possible by dedicated efforts of our production crew, WCTA Directors, speakers, industry personnel and the enthusiastic participation of all delegates. 

Conference post-production spanned about five weeks followed by member dues collection, member directory creation, the proposal process for the 2024 conference venue and fall field day planning.  Simultaneously, there was a focus on e-newsletters to keep the community informed and engaged, the ongoing development of CEC software remained a priority and arguably, the best Dooley Tournament yet, organized by Stan Kazymerchyk, took place in April at the Hazelmere Golf Course.

As summer approached, administrative and planning tasks took center stage for WCTA staff. Member dues collection progressed well and the annual Member Directory returned to hardcopy circulation in early June.  Event planning for both the BC Turf Management Field Day and the 2024 Conference began, marking the 60th anniversary edition of the latter while CEC software data entry was championed by Leslie Carnell.

A significant and under-reported challenge this summer, with associated adjustments for key personnel, was an office move to the Interior.  Despite the time and effort involved, the move went smoothly with little or no interruption to daily WCTA activities.  

In terms of advocacy, the proposed gas equipment ban in Metro-Vancouver required attention as regulators initiated public and industry consultations.  Even more pressing at the time and due to a very hot, dry summer, water restrictions became front and centre including something new, a BC provincial government intervention on the use of well-water via the Ministry of Forests.  

The period following the September Board meeting centered on production, execution, and wrap-up of the BC Turf Management Field Day in September.  The event, hosted by Nick Barbour and Darryl Jackson at Inter River Park in the District of North Vancouver, featured unique elements like a helicopter landing, perfect weather, delicious food, and exceptional hosts, making it one of the most memorable events in the organization's history.

September 30 is our fiscal year-end which necessitates completion and submission of year-end reports to the accountant and a chance to assess overall performance including our membership growth.  I'm very happy to report outstanding results with 76 new members this year, 720 total members versus 693 last year and record dues revenue!

At the same time, conference planning becomes a main focus starting with securing contractors, completing the budget and launching both exhibitor and delegate registration.  At the time of writing (early January), the trade show is just about 90% sold out!

Next up was production and circulation of the Nov/Dec Turf Line News magazine, our most involved publication of the year.  Parallel activities encompassed ongoing work on CEC software data entry, CEC record circulation, 2024 dues invoicing, regular distribution of e-newsletters and production of the Turf Line News Conference Edition.  Keep reading for further details and specifics about our activities this past year.

Foundations - Members

With 76 new members during the fiscal period, by Sep 30 year-end (the only time relative comparisons can be made) total membership was at 720, the highest since the early 2000s and a gross increase of 27 members year-over-year (3.9% growth rate).

Dues payments were coming in faster than ever at the start of this fiscal year and along with starting our annual unpaid member calling campaign earlier than previously, a record year for dues revenue was set at just over $130,000, well over the budgeted amount of $124,943.

Foundations - Communication

A major change to our flagship production, the Turf Line News Magazine, was made in the 2023/2023 production cycle, namely, a move to three annual hardcopies including the Member Directory and eliminating digital only versions in favour of increased efforts directed toward our regularly scheduled e-newsletters.

Considered the first issue of the series, our Nov/Dec 2023 'Holiday Edition', also serving as the conference primer and including the delegate registration package, was circulated early December just ahead of the busy Christmas season.  The Jan/Feb 2024 Turf Line News 'Conference Edition' is currently in production and will be in the mail early February 2024 and available at the show.  Looking back at this past summer, the annual member directory was released on June 16 in hardcopy after two years of exclusive digital format.   

Our e-newsletter, emailed monthly March to October and semi-monthly during winter to about 1500 recipients, is designed to highlight association activities, industry news, important regulatory information and other relevant professional turf management areas of interest.  Open rates consistently reach over 50%, far beyond the industry standard of 10-15%.

Social Media
WCTA Administrative Assistant, Leslie Carnell, took over our social media efforts about a year ago after volunteer efforts by at least three Directors found it extremely challenging to consistently post, manage and grow our SM accounts.  Needless to say, these are valuable communication platforms and we've seen consistent monthly growth as a result of Leslie's attention - as of end November, we can report the following:

Facebook - 560 friends
Instagram - 123 followers, following 225
Twitter - 403 followers, following 285 

Foundations - Education, Networking & Member Services

59th Annual Conference and Trade Show
Our most recent conference, held Feb 15-17, 2023 at the RiverRock Casino Resort in Richmond, BC, marked a new venue record with 364 registered turf managers and a total of 537 industry colleagues attending.  This surpassed previous figures of 360 and 533 in 2020, respectively. 

The sold-out trade show featured 51 companies (8 new) occupying 59 booths, along with 5 participating sponsors.  Hotel bookings exceeded the 260-room block, reaching 359 room nights and the Silent Auction raised $8,049, surpassing the 2020 performance of $6,177, with funds directed toward turf research projects supporting the industry. 

The success of the event is crucial for the professional golf and sportsfield management industry providing financial support for education, networking, member services, turf research, advocacy and in the overall, it reflects a strong, united and successful industry.

Pat Dooley Memorial Golf Tournament
The 6th Annual Pat Dooley Memorial Golf Tournament, held April 27, 2023 at the Hazelmere Golf & Tennis Club in Surrey, was the best one yet.  Of course its difficult to compare to the previous five events but weather was perfect, the course was flawless, and a full field of both turf industry personnel and Dooley family and friends participated in this annual event.

Hats off to Stan Kazymerchyk and Donna Metz for all the organizational efforts in advance and during the day.  Also, a heartfelt thank-you goes out to our tee sponsors, players, KPU turf management volunteers, Dooley family volunteers and the entire Hazelmere team for a first class experience. 

Summer Field Day
It's hard to recollect an event that went off as well as the 2023 BC Turf Management Field Day, held Thursday September 21st at Inter River Park and Jaycee House in the District of North Vancouver.  With amazing weather, an outstanding venue, five-star lunch and top tier education program, things came together just as we had hoped/planned.

Accolades and thanks must be conveyed to our tremendous hosts, Nick Barbour and Darryl Jackson at the District of North Vancouver, along with their entire turf team whose efforts and keen enthusiasm shaped the day.  There were a lot of nice touches, too many too list, but all were noticed and appreciated.   

CEC Software
We have continued working with the developer to refine this custom-built software designed to track individual CEC points easier and more efficiently than the current system.  Leslie has finished entering data for all CEC point seminars from the past 5 years and is currently working on entering individual point records.

CEC Tracking Program
Post-conference point population was completed in April.  The new system of using individual cards instead of sheets worked pretty well but not without some challenges, mostly related to methodology, ie. make sure we don't give them out right away or leave blanks laying around.  For smaller events, the cards should work great.

There have been issues with 3rd party attendance tracking, in particular, attendees don't always know their tracking association and online session hosts can be inconsistent in their reporting.

Updated CEC point records were sent to approximately 300 individuals in November.

CEC Policy & Procedures 
CEC policy creation remains a major pending project that requires coordination with MOE and other credit coordinators.  The Ministry has finally hired a permanent Provincial Pesticide License Officer and I expect that by mid-2024, we should be able to start dealing with a backlog of items such as online attendance issue resolution, re-applying for already approved sessions, setting session expiration dates, along with longer term policy and procedural issues that will hopefully be coordinated with other stakeholders.  

We are not taking any new 3rd party CEC point requests until we, as an association, can resolve issues with 3rd party educational offerings, ie. attendance verification policy, procedures and compliance plan, development of a fee structure supporting the required administration, deciding if there should be pre-requisites such as WCTA membership and coordination of the entire process with other credit coordinator organizations.

Foundations - Advocacy 

Gas Powered Equipment Ban
Metro Vancouver is exploring the possibility of region-wide replacement of gas-powered landscaping equipment with zero-emission alternatives.  The federation, comprising 21 municipalities and one Treaty First Nation, is seeking public input on the challenges and benefits of transitioning from gas to electric equipment for lawn and garden operators.  Marina Richter, Senior Policy Analyst for Air Quality and Climate Change, emphasizes the importance of understanding industry perspectives and establishing connections with regional and provincial partner agencies. 

The BC Landscape Nursery Association has formed a task force to assess the proposed gas-powered equipment ban in Vancouver, coordinating with various impacted industries. The survey, accessible until July 2023, aimed to gather feedback, with preliminary results expected in March 2024.  The WCTA urged its stakeholders to participate in the survey, is communicating with BCLNA and has opened dialogue with Metro on behalf of its members.  

In late June, the BC government issued a drought warning, urging water conservation across the province.  As drought conditions persisted, Metro Vancouver sent water conservation requests to golf facilities and by August 4th, Stage 2 water restrictions were imposed. 

Advocacy for new lawn installation exemptions within Metro was not effective so the focus shifted to ensuring restrictions were rescinded quickly when the time came.  Meanwhile and without any industry consultation or explanation of methodology, the BC Ministry of Forests requested a 50% reduction in non-domestic well-water use. It was a first and caused concerns for at least one golf course in the Fraser Valley that received a notice asking for what were very specific voluntary restrictions.

By August 30, the South Coast Region reached 'Drought Level 5'.  Further questions arose about government transparency and decision making criteria/measurements.  The WCTA brought the issue forward to the Allied Golf Association of BC, suggesting dialogue with the Ministry of Forests was needed to learn more and potentially establish water use plans for golf courses province-wide. 

Kwantlen Turf Management
With the upcoming retirement of tenured turf teacher, Stan Kazymerchyk, the WCTA wrote a letter to Kwantlen University expressing interest in the future of this critical-to-turf-management program. 

Meetings in September and October involved discussions with the KPU Dean of Horticulture and broader consultations with BCGSA representatives.  Dr. Brett Favaro showed receptiveness to evolving the program, termed 'Turf 2.0,' amid its 7-year review cycle, delayed by a 2-year COVID interruption.  

Initially, the notion of pausing for a new lead instructor was considered but later dismissed.  Enrollment challenges and marketing deficiencies were acknowledged, with questions about making turf a Red Seal trade deemed too complex.  The central query is aligning the curriculum with industry needs. Industry priorities include continuous program delivery, addressing turf management needs, and emphasizing practical skills. Challenges such as teacher union issues and industry divergence require consensus and adaptability for program success.

There are at least two proposed amendments to OH&S regulations that were keeping an eye on: 

- Part 3, Rights and Responsibilities, section 3.01 - General risk management
    Feedback will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. on February 9, 2024.

- Part 16, Mobile Equipment, sections 16.21 to 16.21.1 - Seat belts
    Feedback will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. on February 2, 2024.

Foundations - Turf Research 

Without conferences in 2021 and 2022, fundraising became a huge challenge.  Thanks to two Patrick Dooley Memorial Golf Tournaments and our somewhat unique policy amongst associations whereby 10% of member dues are directed toward research, even in a difficult time we were able to uphold our mandate of supporting valuable research projects

For the 2022/2023 fiscal year, our comeback Silent Auction raised $8,040, the highest in a decade!   Thanks to all contributors and bid winners for your support!  In total, $23,342 was raised this past year and will be directed toward 2024 turf research projects. 

2023 funding:
CTRF partnered funding $4,000
OSU Effects of Equipment Traffic on Turfgrass During Frost Conditions $11,500 USD
Total research funding for 2023 ~$22,000

Canadian Turf Research Foundation
The Canadian Turf Research Foundation (CTRF) faced significant challenges over the past year as it continued to struggle with declining financial resources and lack of support from founding member organizations.  A $65,000 grant application to RBC was declined, the first educational webinar planned for March was postponed and a delayed Board meeting, originally scheduled for early March and eventually held on May 9th, sparked a serious evaluation of CTRF's future existence.

As of July 31, the administrative contract with the WCTA expired and was not renewed.  Jim Ross and I continued to sustain the organization on an hourly basis but on a highly reduced schedule.  With other priorities in mind and after consulting the WCTA Board, I decided to tender my resignation as Executive Secretary effective as of the early December Board meeting.  Jim agreed to act in the interim until the organization can reorganize however Chair Paul Schofield has also stepped down and the most recent member, Northwest Turfgrass Association, has left the group.

On a positive note, $10,000 was awarded to Thomas Nikolai at Michigan State University, a translator completed all content for a newly planned French website, a bylaw rewrite was initiated and new fundraising strategies were explored.  The 2024 annual call-for-proposals proceeded as usual yielding four submissions versus 11 last year.

Foundations - Allied Organizations

The first in-person meeting since before COVID took place June 1 at University Golf Club, Travis Olson attended as WCTA representative.  The golf industry umbrella group's current main focus is reintegrating NGCOA and BC PGA, who left several years ago over a governance issue, while advocacy, including another Golf Awareness Day in Victoria, is being considered.

Prompted by WCTA concerns, representatives discussed the request for a 50% reduction in non-domestic well-water use by the BC Ministry of Forests this past summer.  No concrete action was taken but it was confirmed that none of the provincial golf associations were consulted by the Ministry.

An article titled 'Liberals' new playbook takes aim at greenhouse gas in minor sports' has attracted some attention and concern including questions about how this would be measured and which sports might be targeted first.  

More recently, a suggestion was put forward that AGA-BC should consider creating some sort of mental health tool kit for golf industry personnel similar to other sport and industry organizations.

Sports Turf Canada
The WCTA/STC partnership agreement expired June 8. It has been updated and executed without a formal expiration date.

We continue to provide regular written WCTA updates for regional BCGSA meetings.  A meeting with President Brett Finlayson and Miranda Robinson, Operations Manager, during the conference was very productive and positive.

Subsequently, Jenn Rozek, Superintendent at Shuswap Lake Estates, has taken the role of BCGSA Operations Manager.  Both Brett and Jenn attended the 'KPU Future of the Turf Management Program' meeting.  WCTA President, Stu Carmichael presented a WCTA update at the BCGSA Professional Days Dec 6-8 in Victoria.

Office Report
Ongoing challenges persist with QuickBooks and MS Outlook integration, with both attributing issues to the other.  Initial investigation to switch entirely to QuickBooks Online are underway for streamlined operations and potential online payment integration.  

An SSL certificate issue affecting wctaturf.com has been resolved, ensuring smoother CEC software access for ongoing data entry and member access once launched.  Unknown to us until an administrator at Christina Lake Golf Club was looking for their job post, all member-only job posts were viewable on our website by using the search engine with terms like 'jobs' or 'employment'.  As a member only service, this was never the intention and has been corrected.

An office move to the Kelowna area took place in July and while things are still getting settled, there was little to no interruption to WCTA operations and member services.  Initially, contact information changes have not been necessary but an official announcement is planned post-conference that will include a full update.

Jerry Rousseau
Executive Director
Western Canada Turfgrass Association