By REID PRIEDHORSKY
Expanding the golf course is a bad idea.
The local golf community should respect their neighbors by operating within their existing footprint. Recreational success in this community is not measured by the number, size, and/or cost of development projects completed.
The County Council has (correctly!) directed staff and advisory boards to “minimize impacts to existing trails and open space to the greatest extent possible” on this matter. None of the four golf course options under consideration meet that standard, because they all disrupt trails and remove many trees that are hundreds of years old.
It is literally impossible to replace these mature ponderosa pines. Even if one could be confident in the County or its contractors planting and maintaining new trees with appropriate expertise and care (which one cannot), mature trees simply are not equivalent to any number of seedlings, especially in the face of climate change. That is, the proposed 2-for-1 replacement, or even a 10-to-1 or 50-to-1 ratio, is not acceptable. Leave the trees alone.
A better solution to the driving range problems that motivate expansion is limited flight balls. This is nearly free, does not impact the nearby open space, and could be implemented tomorrow (addressing golfers’ concerns about downtime). About half the golfers responding to the county’s survey were fine with this, and it’s a standard practice across the county. The fact that a relatively small number of people will feel mildly inconvenienced by limited flight balls is a very reasonable price for the golf community to pay for a shared space.
I am also concerned, again, about the county’s planning procedures. For example, there are no data justifying the level of expenditure. For example, how many users does the driving range have? It is not acceptable to spend millions of public dollars and destroy irreplaceable trees without a solid argument.
Similarly, Parks & Rec. board member David Hampton’s comments after the Aug. 11 meeting — that the board was not considering whether to expand the golf course, but merely how to do it if expansion were chosen — put the cart before the horse. These comments are consistent not with county leadership taking a thoughtful approach, but rather attempting to present a fait accompli.