The Lake County Forest Preserve District is nearing a key milestone in the eventual conversion of 146 golf carts at its Countryside Golf Club from gas to electric.
The designation of $1.4 million in its 10-year capital plan for an electric cart storage and charging facility does not mean change is imminent. But it does create a placeholder in the budget process to get the ball rolling, perhaps in 2024.
The capital plan, which is part of the district’s annual budget, was approved in June. At the time, a project to design and build storage for electric carts on the 36-hole course was delayed as funding sources were finalized.
Golf is a corporate fund that pays its fees. However, the cost of installing cart storage would hamper the courts’ ability to replace standard equipment.
As suggested, the golf fund would pay half and the district will allocate $700,000 from the general fund as a zero-interest loan repayable over 10 years.
The addition of the design and construction of the golf cart storage facility will be considered by the full Forestry Board next week.
While there was general support, the ongoing action is seen as important to the district’s goal of reducing its carbon footprint.
“That would put us on track for four net zero buildings,” said Ty Kovach, executive director.
A net zero building produces enough energy to power itself. The others are the Ryerson Conservation Area Solar Powered Visitor Center; an environmental education center in Ryerson under construction; and, a proposed maintenance facility at Lakewood Forest Reserve.
Electric golf carts have been around for about 30 years, said district golf operations manager Alex Eichman.
In fact, because there’s indoor storage, all 80 carts used at ThunderHawk Golf Club in Beach Park have been powered by electricity since the course opened in 1999, Eichman said.
“We need to have indoor storage before we (can) have a single electric cart,” he added.
Forestry commissioners discussed converting 10 petrol lawnmowers at Countryside to electric. But it’s a new option with emerging issues, including price.
“It’s still on the table. My recommendation was to go that route because we can have a bigger impact,” Eichman said.
“We think that’s probably the wisest thing to do to reduce our fuel consumption and show that we’re good stewards of the environment,” he added.
The Audubon Signature Sanctuary program at ThunderHawk and the Cooperative Sanctuary program at Countryside also contribute to the big environmental picture, according to Kovach.
Ann Maine, a member of the Forestry Council’s operations committee, who discussed the electric trolley installation on Monday, said the project can also raise awareness.
“There is also an educational opportunity,” she said.
Although funding is designated for 2024, the capital plan may change. Eichman said when the electric carts will be stocked at Countryside is yet to be determined.
“This is a project that will take a lot of time (and) a lot of planning,” he said.