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Despite Heavy Rains, Fallen Oak Golf Course on Schedule

Mon March 14, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Brian H. Kern

Despite receiving 5 in. of rain between Jan. 31 and Feb. 2, Yates Construction of Biloxi, MS, is running on schedule in the development of the Fallen Oak golf course, located approximately 20 miles north of Biloxi near the DeSoto National Forest on Mississippi Route 15.

While the extreme weather halted portions of the operation and left key pieces of equipment temporarily idle, Tommy Shook, Yates’ project manager, said the overall timetable for a February 2006 completion has not been adversely affected.

Biloxi’s MGM Beau Rivage casino owns the 510-acre (206 ha) property, which encompasses five federally- regulated wetland areas. To comply with wetland preservation regulations mandated by state and federal environmental agencies, Yates installed 15 bio-basins for retention and filtration of runoff water before being gravity-fed back into the water table.

Averaging approximately 10,000 sq. ft. (929 sq m) each, the basins provide approximately 150,000 sq, ft. (14,000 sq m) of runoff filtration through sand, gravel and perforated pipe. Yates also dug a 2.5-acre (1 ha) drainage lake, 10 ft. (3 m) deep at its deepest point, to accommodate the site’s run-off.

For drainage work on the tees, greens and fairways, Yates subcontracted Agri-Scape Golf Course Construction, of Ellington, CT. Agri-Scape is tasked with all of the drainage and finishing work, which includes placement of a 10-in. (25.4 cm) sand cap across each fairway from buffer zone to buffer zone. Local sand is being hauled in at 23 cu. yds. (17.6 cu m) per truckload, from Perkinston Sand & Gravel of Perkinston, MS, to be used for the massive capping effort.

A total of 90,000 cu. yds. (68,810 cu m) will be placed over existing subsoil, acting as part of a filtration system under the grass for quick displacement of rainwater.

Eagle Golf, of Florence, AL, was subcontracted by Yates to perform all irrigation work. The entire job will consist of 25 mi. (40.2 km) of irrigation pipe, running laterally and longitudinally under each fairway, green and tee.

Tree relocation is a major component of the Fallen Oak project. Yates subcontracted Environmental Design, of Tomball, TX, to do all of the required tree removal and transplanting. According to Shook, a total of 600 trees, mostly pines, oaks and magnolias, will be uprooted and transplanted in an effort to retain the natural beauty and ambience of the area.

Environmental Design has three tree spades on site — a 90-in. (2.2 m) unit, a 10-ft. (3 m) unit, and a 14-ft. (4.3 m) unit. The 14-ft. spade is the largest made. Some of the uprooted trees are being temporarily relocated to nursery-type holding areas during construction, until their permanent sites are determined and prepared to specifications. Approximately 40 trees are currently in their permanent locations adjacent to holes six and seven.

Providing a sense of magnitude of the tree-relocation work, and the maturity of some of the affected trees, Shook said approximately 200 trees will be moved using the 14-ft. spade. Thirty trees will be moved using the so-called round-ball method where the root ball is dug out and wrapped securely. The round-ball trees are transported vertically, with the aid of Cat 330 and 345 excavators, while trees removed with the spades are generally transported nearly horizontally.

Dick Mansell, Yates’ site superintendent, pointed out a recently round-balled magnolia tree that was ready for transporting. Recycled drill stems are placed in a grid configuration under the root ball for stability, and remain intact throughout the transplantation process.

“That magnolia weighs approximately 40,000 lbs.,” Mansell said. Mansell guessed the tree to be approximately 50-years-old and said it will be placed near the clubhouse.

Ten bridges, spanning drop-offs of up to 6 ft. (1.8 m), are being constructed on pathways over wetland areas throughout the site. York Bridge Concepts (YBC) of Tampa, FL, the subcontractor for all bridge work, specializes in constructing timber bridges in wetland areas. The method of construction performed by YBC prohibits contact of the backhoe and other heavy equipment with the wetland floor.

Pilings are placed a predetermined distance from the end of the bridge, guided in by workers on the ground. A vibratory hammer on the rear of a John Deere 310 backhoe drives the pilings to the desired depth, and the bridge decking is put in place from the top of the job. The backhoe then uses the new decking as a work platform to hammer the next set of pilings, and the fragile ecology of the wetland floor remains relatively undisturbed.

A total of 700,000 cu. yds. (535,200 cu m) of earth will be moved in the development of the course. According to Shook, most of that amount has already been moved and placed. Mansell said approximately 70,000 cu. yds. (53,520 cu m) were moved from a lower location that needed leveling, to the clubhouse site to provide an elevated foundation for the building and its adjacent parking lot.

According to Mansell, asphalt work on the pathways and entry road will commence sometime in late March and grass planting is scheduled for the latter part of June through the first week of July.

With a budget in excess of $30 million, the job employs approximately 50 workers, including Yates’ personnel and subcontractors’ operational employees. According to Shook, that number will increase to approximately 70 as the job progresses. Yates Construction has a track record in golf course development. Among others, the company also built the Dancing Rabbit golf course in Philadelphia, MS, for Silver Star Casino.

The specific live oak, which is the golf course’s namesake, is surrounded by orange protective fencing near the site of the clubhouse parking lot. At some point in the tree’s history, a massive branch broke, but did not separate from the main trunk of the tree. The damaged branch remains as a living part of the plant, hence the name, Fallen Oak. CEG

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