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Background on the Nature in the City Riparian Restoration Masterplan

SLC Muicipal Golf Course Fiscal Crisis Headlines

 

Golf in decline nationally -- Salt Lake City's municipal golf system deficit

Due to declining nationwide demand and profitability of golf courses and major annual deficits in a "Golf Enterprise Fund" that is supposed to be self-funded out of fee for service revenues, in the fall of 2014 Salt Lake City officials elected to close the  22-acre "Par 3" golf course on the west bank of the Jordan River  and on February 24 the Salt Lake City Council recommended to Mayor Ralph Becker that two additional municipal golf courses be closed, one adjacent to the Salt Lake International Airport (Wingpointe) and one along the Jordan River (Glendale golf course.)   The director of the city's Tracy Aviary, has recommended to city officials that the Par 3 golf course become a nature park enhanced by a nature center building to provide indoor space for nature education programs.

City Council Recommendations  and Scenarios

The City Council has further recommended that:

  • Any golf courses that may be closed should remain "open space" in perpetuity, rather than being developed for commercial or residential use;
  • The 160-acre Glendale golf course should be repurposed as 50% "active recreation" open space (essentially a sports park, at a cost of $28.6 million) and 50% "natural" open space, and 50% made into a nature park at an estimated cost of $4.2 million.
  • The cost of purchasing golf course land from the unique "Golf Enterprise Fund" legal entity, plus the cost of converting any courses which may be closed for other use,  should be funded out of a General Obligation bond to be placed on the ballot in the November 2015 election.
  • The General Obligation bond (G.O. bond) should provide some funding (the exact amount is not yet clear) to cover projected golf course system operational deficits during the 2-year (or more) transition period.  It may or may not also cover any portion of a very large (variously estimated at $10.4 to $12 million) deferred maintenance backlog of the remaining golf courses.  (It might possibly also include several million for completion of some city bike trails.

The city council staff has prepared scenarios and cost estimates for the proposed golf course closures and reconfigurations.   These documents show that the probable cost of converting golf course land into "active recreation" (a proposed "regional park") would be around $300,000 per acre, while the cost of riparian restoration of "natural" open space would be just one tenth of that amount, or $30,000.  So far the Coalition's research seems to confirm the latter figure.

The Salt Lake City Council recommended on February 24 that the Glendale Golf course be closed and converted into 50% "active recreation" (sports fields) and 50% nature park (estimated cost of about $33 million.   If this were funded from a general obligation bond, the bond amount would have to be substantially higher to cover other golf course transition costs, or any portion of the Golf Fund's $20 to $26 million deferred maintenance budget.

Near term funding from a General Obligation Bond

This DRAFT proposal is that the balance between funding for "active recreation" versus natural  area restoration of the proposed G.O. bond should be shifted much further towards natural open space and nature parks so as to accomplish natural area restoration outside the envelope of the two closed golf courses along the Jordan river.   Because nature parks are so much less expensive to create and maintain than any other type of open space or park land (such as sports parks), we believe that the cost of creating a continuous string of nature parks and restored native plants along the Jordan River corridor all the way across the city, could easily be possible out of the proposed 2015 general obligation bond.

Other potential funding sources

Whatever the funding from that source, there are other possible sources as well:

  • existing  or future "open space" funds of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County
  • future open space bonding by Salt Lake County
  • wetlands mitigation funds as they come available
  • RDA funding
  • Federal Superfund, transit oriented development, and/or Land and Water Conservation funds
  • Private donor or foundation funding
  • State funding out of the School Trust Fund (given the educational component)
  • Special appropriations of state funds through the State Parks or Wildlife Resources departments.

Incremental , opportunistic approach

The size and composition of the proposed G.O. bond available for nature park conversion cannot be known until a good deal of public process has taken place to design and review the bond offering.    Whatever amount such a bond might provide in the way of funding, Coalition leaders believe that the proposal outlined above will offer so many benefits to Salt Lake City residents and visitors, and to the region's economy, in comparison to its relatively modest cost, that such a plan will ultimately succeed over time.   With this vision in place, additional nature parks can be created as funding allows.

We believe that the vision outlined in the Blueprint Jordan River Report  and no less than 32 other reports, studies and programs across the past 50 years), of a protected and restored natural Jordan River corridor, will ultimately expand beyond Salt Lake City to encompass the entire 55 mile "Lake to Lake" length of the Jordan River.