An article in the Seattle Times mirrors an ongoing controversy in Little Rock — what to do with municipal golf courses.
The Little Rock Board of Directors has decided to close two of four city-supported golf courses, but nobody has said yet just which ones. Hindman and War Memorial appear to be in the crosshairs. The First Tee course, established by a gift from a billionaire and once expected to be supported by charity, seems most likely to survive as a city-subsidized course.
Mayor Frank Scott Jr. prefers to say two courses are to be “re-purposed” rather than closed.
The decision has been reached in part because parks are about the only major agency of city government where a cash-strapped City Hall has a ready ability to make several dozen job cuts. The decision is also based on a study that emphasized that the courses take in less revenue than they cost to operate. It is an analysis that few city park operations could withstand — swimming pools, gyms, picnic areas, playgrounds. But golf courses occupy far more land.
In Little Rock, there’s been talk of enhancing youth sports facilities, walking trails and picnic areas in place of golf courses. These ideas (though not a private bar and driving range touted by some) are attractive. But none comes without cost.
Seattle is also trying to decide whether there’s a better way to use the more than 500 acres their four city golf courses occupy. Again the cost is a factor. Again there’s been small attention to the golfers themselves. In Seattle, as in Little Rock, the public courses are enjoyed by a diverse population. That is, the users are not as rich and white as the golfers who use expensive private courses. Seattle is also a good deal more prosperous than Little Rock. It’s interesting reading.