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Parks Commission Approves Intent to Sell Parts of Public Golf Courses

Baihly Warfield
Created: May 08, 2019 11:29 PM

DULUTH, Minn. - The Parks and Recreation Commission approved a resolution of intent to sell parts of the Lester and Enger Park golf courses at a Wednesday meeting. 

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There are many more steps to the process before public land can be sold. The Duluth City Council will consider a resolution of intent on Monday, which would set up city staff to be able to define criteria for development proposals. 

Director of Public Administration Jim Filby Williams said the city intends to do away with the driving range at the Enger course, which is about 16 acres. Ten of those would be sold for a housing development, and the other six would be used to improve Skyline. 

The city would purchase about 30 acres of land and add that to Enger Park. 

At Lester, Duluth would close the Lake 9 portion of the course, which is about 50 acres. That land would be sold to a developer, but 18 holes of public golf would be maintained. 

Filby Williams said the city acquired the land from St. Louis County specifically to use for golfing. 

"But for its contiguity with the preexisting 18 holes at Lester, the site is relatively unremarkable from a parks perspective," he said, "lacking in distinctive ecological, scenic or recreational value. In contrast, the site offers considerable value as a housing development property." 

The city plans to add 450 acres of tax forfeited property to the existing 300 acres of Lester Park. The newly acquired land would be permanently protected from development. 

However, some citizens don't see any merit in selling off pubic park land. 

"Selling park land to solve a budget problem sets a dangerous precedent," Rich Staffon said. "Once we start down this road, which piece of park land is next? What guarantee do we have that in three years, there will not be a proposal to sell off more of Lester Park or some other park?"

In her comments, District 3 Commissioner Britt Rohrbaugh said the plan seems like a true compromise because nobody is happy and everyone is struggling. 

Rohrbaugh was one of six commissioners that voted in favor of the resolution of intent, which is reversible. Commissioners Dudley Edmondson and Tjaard Breeuwer were opposed. 

Filby Williams said that while golf was the impetus for the deeper dive into land use issues, he is recommending it because it is in line with Duluth's comprehensive plan.

He said that if selling the Lake 9 and the Enger driving range were simply a means to keep Duluth golf alive, city administration would not be making the recommendation. According to Filby Williams, other areas of the city will soon be having these tough discussions too. 

The City Council is expected to take up the resolution of intent at its 7 p.m. regular meeting on Monday. 

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Baihly Warfield

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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