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Golfers rally to save the Hiawatha Golf Course

Posted on 29 August 2017 by calvin

Golfers Rally Crowd

Photo above: A group of about 100 Hiawatha Golf Course supporters gathered on Tues., Aug. 15, in response to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board decision on Aug. 9 to shut down the course. They encourage residents to browse their site, for more information and to get involved in saving the course. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Following Park Board decision to close course, supporters come together to push back

Article and photos by TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
“We don’t want a beautiful recreational asset turned into a stormwater pond,” Jerry Mullin told a group of about 100 Hiawatha Golf Course supporters on Tues., Aug. 15.

Mullin, an environmental consultant who used to work for Baar Engineering, has lived across the street from the golf course for 20 years. He and other speakers at a rally in support of Hiawatha Golf Course charged that the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board process hasn’t been fair since the beginning, and they want to have more of a say in what happens at the course.

Golfers Rally Jerry MullinPhoto right: Jerry Mullin, and other speakers at a rally in support of Hiawatha Golf Course, charged that the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board process hasn’t been fair since the beginning, and they want to have more of a say in what happens at the course.

Following a flood in 2014, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) learned that the course is pumping far more water off the property than allowed by a Department of Natural Resources permit. The park board began holding meetings in 2015 to update residents on what was happening at the course and to begin envisioning what else the land could be used for if it wasn’t a golf course.

On Aug. 9, the park board approved reducing the pumping from 242 million gallons to 94 million gallons by a 6-3 vote. The course is expected to remain open through the 2019 season.

Supporters push for advocacy
Kathryn Kelly grew up near the golf course, and her mom still resides in the neighborhood. “I believe if they flood this golf course all the houses down there are at risk for flooding,” said Kelly, who was at home during the 1987 flood when the water came up to Longfellow Ave.

Kelly also played golf at Hiawatha as a teenager when she was a member of the Roosevelt High School team. “I think it should stay,” she stated. Kelly doesn’t support the park board idea of putting in parking lots and a pavilion. “I don’t understand how you can build a pavilion on a swamp,” Kelly commented.

Golfers Rally Levy PoundMayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pound (photo right) told the crowd she believes this situation is another example of the Park Board not listening to the people. “Unfortunately, they have too much unchecked power,” Levy-Pound said. “The November elections are coming up, and they’re very important because we have the chance to change park board leaders.”

Levy-Pound said that she didn’t understand how the park board is moving ahead with closing the course before it has a solid plan for redevelopment or the funds to pay for it.

Levy-Pound questioned, “How can golf be a dying sport at Hiawatha Golf Course if this course is used by so many?” She pointed to the youth that use the course, as well as all the people who showed up for the rally.

“I believe that because of the power of your advocacy, it will remain open,” Levy-Pound said.

Several other candidates for office within the city spoke to the crowd, including Charlie Casserly, at-large park board candidate; Bob Fine, who is running for the District 6 Park Board seat in the southwest section of the city; Bill Shroyer, District 5 Park Board candidate; and Andrea Fahrenkrug, District 5 Park Board candidate.

Shroyer is a 17-year Park Board employee in the forestry and maintenance department. “They’re going to dredge the Mississippi, and they can’t dredge this lake?” he asked.

Shroyer thinks the user numbers generated for the site if it were redeveloped are fake. “I know the food forest isn’t going to bring half a million people here,” said Shroyer. “This is a success, and we’re not going to give it up.”

Andrea Fahrenkrug’s husband grew up playing the course at Hiawatha. She understands that some people don’t like to play golf and don’t use the course. “That’s fine,” she said. “You don’t have to want a golf course. We want a golf course.” She believes that diversity in the activities offered within the park system is important.

Golfers Rally Bobby WarfieldBobbie Warfield (photo left) agreed. “There are 6,800 acres of park land in Minneapolis,” he pointed out. “What are we going to get by having another restaurant in Minneapolis? But this is the only golf course in south Minneapolis.”

Course supporters encouraged people to browse for more information on how to get involved in saving the golf course.

MPRB’S next steps
Earlier in August, the MPRB directed staff to organize a process of amending the Nokomis Hiawatha Regional Park Master Plan to accommodate changes to the Hiawatha Golf Course property following the decision to reduce pumping there.

MPRB will be forming a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to determine if some form of traditional golf can remain on the property.

The process to determine the future usage of the course is estimated to take between nine and 12 months, according to a press release. The process to prepare plans and obtain permits will take another 12 months or more. During that time, MPRB will work with the DNR to continue current pumping levels so that Hiawatha Golf Course will remain open as an 18-hole golf course until at least the end of 2019.

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