The other day Terry Pender reported in The Record that the City of Kitchener’s public golf courses have hit hard financial times. Due to a number of factors – the decline in spending on golf following the economic crisis of 2008 (and ’09, ’10, etc.), increased competition, and a loan payment stemming from the expansion of Doon Valley from 18-27 holes – the city owned Rockway and Doon Valley golf courses are losing money.
It seems that the city has already taken all of the measures it can take to lower operating costs without damaging the properties, and is now looking at more drastic measures. “The major options that are under consideration are retain ownership and operation of the courses, lease them out in their entirety or to engage a private-sector partner to manage the operation of the courses,” Dan Chapman, the city’s treasurer, said.
So our options then are to potentially continue to amount losses to the operations or take some measure to privatize the operations through some sort of PPP arrangement (public-private partnership).
Now, I have my own feelings about PPPs but I also have some reservations about the city subsidizing golf courses. I like playing the odd round now and then, but it’s tough to get on board with subsidizing the most elitist sport. Rockway (which I’ve not played at) is apparently a gem of a course in a great location. Consider though, that it’s a great location that most of the population of the city can’t afford to access. Golf courses take up huge swaths of land, have enormous carbon footprints due to all of the turf maintenance, fertilizers, pesticides, trimming, cutting, etc., all while being affordable to a minority of the population.
Hmmm, so what to do here?
Not mentioned in the article is another option, one which was mentioned in the comments and that I’ve heard in the community – why not sell them, then? Developers would eat this land up. I’m certain that there will be people who will advise council to get out of the golf game altogether.
This is where I get particularly concerned. At the moment, without knowing more of the details, I’m undecided as to the best course of action but there’s one course I’m adamantly opposed to, and that’s selling the land to a developer.
At current, the land is being used for an activity that many people don’t have access to for financial reasons. However, there’s one thing that is prized in urban living and it’s something that is almost impossible to find more of once a city gets built – green space.
Should the option ever come up to sell this land for development it should be countered with the much better option of retaining this land and turning it into public parks and naturalized areas, accessible to everyone in the city and increasing urban space for wildlife.
…turned into this…
…it should instead be turned into this.