Golf course options rile residents
Vocal supporters of the Nine Springs golf course teed off on plans to create a park at the 33-acre site during an acrimonious meeting Aug. 22 at the Fairways Apartments.
Fear that matters might get out of hand prompted a request for a police officer to show up to the meeting room. About half the 60 people attending the meeting subsequently remained for the discussion of park amenities.
The City of Fitchburg acquired the golf course in 1986 and is now weighing alternate uses for the site. Deed restrictions limit potential uses to a golf course, park or conservancy.
Supporters of the golf course angrily interrupted presentations by representatives of the city’s parks and planning departments, questioning all aspects of the process, even though the city had publicized the meeting as involving of options for a park.
Not so, said many who attended the meeting. They said someone had distributed fliers publicizing the meeting as a choosing between a golf course and a park, and were angered at the misrepresentation.
The city has denied circulating the fliers..
Exasperated city officials repeatedly emphasized that maintaining the golf course was already an option and that the Common Council would make the final decision. They finally recommended that opponents of a possible park contact elected officials to voice their objections.
Opponents said a park would foster crime and claimed their opinions had not been fairly considered in surveys conducted by the city. One said creating a park was tantamount to erecting a neon sign to attract drug dealers and gangs, and would require a police precinct to maintain order. They also questioned the costs and demand for another park.
Jake Johnson, a member of the city’s Parks Commission, said the city needed to develop an alternative if Sam Schultz decides he is no longer interested in leasing the golf course. Schultz, who has managed the course since 1999, paid the city $6,000 annually until 2011, when he asked the city for financial support. The city has agreed to pay him $20,000 annually through 2014.
Only Schultz responded to the city’s recent request for proposals to manage the course.
Wade Thompson of the city’s planning department said the area adjacent to the park was more densely populated, more diverse and younger than the rest of the city. These residents also had lower incomes.
Dana Dentice of the parks department said 44 percent of the 620 people who completed a recent survey lived with a half-mile of the golf course and that many of them were not very familiar with the area.
Proponents of the golf course said Schultz had worked with area youth to curb vandalism and offers a popular program to foster youth interest in golf.
But Berta Armacanqui, a Madison resident who works closely with the Latino population, said golfers were unfriendly and treated area youth “roughly.” She said few Latinos knew the city owned the golf course and questioned whether use should be restricted to benefit a private enterprise.
Sheri Carter said additional meetings should be held before the city starts to develop a plan and asked whether there were alternative locations in area for a park. Officials said there would be several opportunities for the public to express their views, including a discussion of alternatives in early October and presentation of the selected alternative draft plan in January 2014, as well as at meetings of the Park Commission, Plan Commission and Common Council.
“In no way has the Common Council made a decision,” said parks director Scott Endl.
Supporters of the golf course distributed flyers stating that “purposely removing one of the very few municipal courses in the area would be costly divestment and disastrous for safety.”
Supporters of a park distributed material noting that 43 “low-income buildings” directly surround the golf course and that more than 2,300 residents live near the golf course, which “gives little value to the community and takes away precious access to nature in an area where it is sorely needed.”