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Clarity coming for future of public golf in Duluth – By: Brady Slater Sep. 3, DNT

Decisions on renovating Enger Park Golf Course and developing parcels at Lester Park may reach the City Council later this month, but face public hurdles starting Wednesday.

After three years of wrestling with the future of public golf in Duluth, decisionmakers enter September poised to deliver on permanently becoming a city with one public golf course.  “While we’ve got some funding gaps to shore up, we are on a path to a sustainable golf program that demonstrates our efforts to right-size our system and still serve all of its users,” Parks and Recreation Department Manager Jessica Peterson said.

Beginning at Wednesday’s virtual Public Golf Committee meeting, the city will unveil plans for $7.1 million in renovations to Enger Park Golf Course. A separate action will consider the redevelopment of roughly 37.5 acres of the closed Lester Park Golf Course, which would reopen for the season in 2023 while Enger renovations are conducted, before closing for good as a golf course

“It’s still going to be contentious, and rightfully so, because there’s a lot of people who are devoted toward Lester golf and it’s been a hard pill to swallow,” said David Demmer, chair of the Public Golf Committee and vice chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, two bodies that will need to vote on the changes before the City Council would take up votes starting Sept. 27.

“But I’m in favor of improving the infrastructure at Enger to make it a playable course and to preserve public golf,” Demmer continued. “If we want to preserve Duluth public golf in light of the numbers that led us to the hard decision to close Lester, it’s still going to take the golf community and everybody around it to continue to make tough, but strategic decisions.”Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

The city began tackling the future of public golf in 2018, when the two courses’ debt accumulation reached $2.2 million. The ensuing years have featured studies and consultations with experts, along with numerous public meetings and conversations within the golfing community.

“While some decisions are challenging and difficult, we do feel as if there is a viable path forward for public golf in Duluth,” Peterson told the News Tribune this week. “We are making responsible decisions on consolidating the public golf program and assessing parkland alongside the city’s comprehensive plan’s initiatives for smart housing and development that is needed. So, collectively, while this conversation has many sides and angles to it, we’ve arrived at a place that has potential to satisfy many if not all of these angles.”

The city proposes to use revenue bonding to be paid across 20 years for the first $4 million of Enger’s $7.1 million renovation. The proposed conveyance of 37.5 acres of Lester parcels to the Duluth Economic Development Authority, and possible future parcel sales from either golf property, would help fund the remainder of renovations — with 100% of the appraised value of any parcel sales at either course dedicated to Enger renovations.

The city will also look at phasing in Enger improvements, using long-term golf course sponsorships, grant funding and philanthropic funds to help pay for the remainder of renovations, Peterson explained.

PREVIOUSLY:

At one point, it was thought the city could renovate both courses for roughly $7 million, and that Enger would require only a rehabbed clubhouse. But those notions grew outdated as the process unfolded with the help of Norby Golf Course Design, of Chaska, Minnesota, and Architectural Resources, Inc., of Duluth.

“Since 2018, the construction market has changed drastically,” Peterson said. “And we’ve dived deeper into our analysis of critical repair items that would be necessary to bring the (Enger) course to a lush, green, aesthetically pleasing, playable standard.”

Todd Armbruster is the city’s parks project coordinator. He described how roughly $4 million is ticketed to replace Enger Park’s failing irrigation system. “It’s a critical need,” he said. “We’re looking at 27-hole replacement of all piping heads, the pump station, upgrading city water supply, so we can better water the course during drought conditions, and expanding the irrigation ponds.”  A new clubhouse, he said, would remove barriers, like stairs, and put everything on one level. “It would still have the same amenities with better design and layout,” Armbruster said.

The city had previously sought proposals to develop the Lester Park parcels, but that process neither garnered a developer nor led to a sale. The plan to now convey the parcels to DEDA is necessary, Peterson said, to realize the Enger Park renovations.  “The sale of park land on the golf courses has been already anticipated as part of our process, and has been very clearly relayed to both commissions and the council,” Peterson said.

For Demmer, the proposal to renovate Enger will present an easier hurdle than selling parcels of city-owned land. “Lester, in my mind, is down to a land management issue … for anybody who has a stake and appreciation in open spaces — golf course or not,” Demmer said.  He noted that while this month’s votes may look like the end of a process, he says the plight to both save golf in Duluth and reimagine Lester Park is only just beginning.

“The golf community in general is just starting to rise up to the challenge,” Demmer said. “The only way we’re going to overcome this kind of challenge is together. There’s a lot of room for parties interested in both Lester and Enger. If everybody works together, we could have a really good result, not just for golfers, but all of the other user groups who could potentially be a part of this solution.”

The measures for Enger renovations and Lester parcel sales are ticketed to be considered at the following upcoming meetings:

  • 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Public Golf Committee.
  • Sept. 14, Planning Commission (Lester only).
  • Sept. 15, Park and Recreation Commission.
  • Sept. 27, City Council.

The virtual Public Golf Committee meeting Wednesday can be accessed at duluthmn.gov/live-meeting. Learn more about Enger Park Golf Course renovations at duluthmn.gov/parks/parks-planning/progress-in-the-park/enger-golf-course-renovation.

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Public Golf Committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 20 at 5-7pm (virtual)

Cost estimates and project updates will be presented along with discussion about the various renovation items for preparation of a full report by the September meeting. Sign up to attend prior to the meeting. OR, scroll to LIVE MEETING Project Concept #3 is option selected going forward, maintaining the basic current footprint of Enger Golf Course and driving range (with possible major changes) AND the replacement of the clubhouse.
To renew your membership or make a donation, click here 

Enger Project Update: MEET WITH TODD ARMBRUSTER, the Parks Project Coordinator Wednesday, June 30 from 7-11:00 a.m. or Thursday, July 1 from 2-4:00 p.m. at Enger Clubhouse. You can view large printouts of the revised plans. Todd has been approachable to respond to questions or suggestions you might have about the Enger Renovation Plan.

It was announced at the Tuesday, June 29 meeting that PROJECT CONCEPT #3 will be the option that will be worked on going forward, which maintains the basic current footprint of Enger Golf Course and driving range, with some tweaks. Increased focus will be on the clubhouse plans.

8/10/20 Did You know?

The city continues to take actions without the voice of the people. The city talks of keeping communication lines open with the golfers but continues to push forward on their own plans without consultation of the people they are suppose to be supporting. Read below and stay educated:

Golf – Development RFP Process Consistent with Council Resolution 19-0480, Planning and Economic Development staff continue to proceed through the development RFP process. PED staff anticipate bringing an agreement to City Council in August that outlines the terms for an exclusive negotiation agreement with a developer for the Enger site. Progress for the Lester site has not yet reached this step. Action by Council will allow staff to negotiate with a designated developer exclusively. This is an agreement with a developer to begin developing a plan to determine its acceptability and viability, and not an agreement to sell or that the developer will be the final development party. Such decisions will require future review and approval. Link to Res 19-0480: https://duluth-mn.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4055032&GUID=FE64BFA3-B292-423C-841C-8FCE98102784&Options=ID|Text|&Search=enger


Golf – Management In June 2020, Council approved a one-year extension amendment to the current agreement with golf course management company Antares, formerly Billy Casper Golf. This agreement ensures golf course management continuity and addresses the 2020 pandemic-inflicted closure of Lester Park Golf Course and associated adjustments to maintenance and management of that course during the 2020 season. Link to Res 20-0450R: https://duluth-mn.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4571569&GUID=28CADB81-76F5-418D-833B-7255461C026D&Options=&Search=

4/24/2020

Additional media coverage of Mayor Larson’s closure of Lester Park Golf Course

FOX21 media coveage of Lester Golf Course closure

4/21/2020 MEMO FROM PRESIDENT DAN BAUMGARTNER in response to the LESTER GOLF COURSE CLOSURE BY MAYOR EMILY LARSON

4/7/2020

Notice: Board Member Pete Howard will have an interview with KBJR on the 5pm newscast discussing golf and the current pandemic situation. Additionally, will be discussing where we are at in our journey. **** interview moved to tomorrow 4/8/20 *****

Interview with Pete Howard will air at 10pm on KBJR news on 4/8/20.

3/11/20

THERE WILL BE NO FODPG MEETING ON MARCH 17TH!

Stay tuned for upcoming meeting information.

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FODPG Meeting February  18, 2020 Enger Park Clubhouse

The Board met on Tuesday, February 18, 2020, 5:30pm, at Enger Park Clubhouse.

The following Board members attended:

Dan Baumgartner, President, Trish Lilliberg, Executive Committee , Luke Murray

Directors Absent:

Tim Lee, Vice President , Paul Paczynski, Treasurer, Sue Harney, Executive Committee, Chris Stevens, Pete Howard

Greg Gilbert presented his proposal for a citizens group preparing an RFP for golf management with a Golf Board established to oversee the courses. Other similar boards using this concept would be DAHA, AYSA, Rowing Club, etc. Discussion centered on working committees, possible grant avenues and local people to reach out to. People signed up for various committees that interested them.  President Baumgartner, Chris Stevens, and Trish Lilliberg have recused ourselves due to protentional conflicts of interest.  Any future work done on Mr. Gilbert’s proposal will be done outside of FODPG.  Tom Griggs also distributed a draft FODPG Strategic Plan for discussion.

President Baumgartner updated members on the new RFPs posted on the City’s website for development of the Lester Park & Enger Park properties in collaboration with the City. Pres. Baumgartner outlined the differences in two postings (past & present) of the RFPs. The Golf Advisory Committee application process closed last Friday and accepted applicants should have been notified of their acceptance. The official Committee members will be announced at the March Parks Commission meeting, usually held the 2nd Wednesday of the month. 

The closure of Lester Park’s Lake Nine was discussed. Members expressed their concern it was closed prior to any decision being made on the Lester Park RFP outcome and the potential need for the extra Nine to be used in case there is winter green damage on the greens again this upcoming season. Members are, again, encouraged to reach out to their City Councilors and Parks Commissioners through both attendance at meetings and emails/letters to them voicing our concerns. We need to stay vigilant.

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 17, 5:30pm. Pres. Baumgartner will be inviting a guest speaker for the meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 7:10pm.

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FODPG general meeting will be held on TUESDAY, February 18, 5:30 -7pm at the Enger Park Clubhouse. 
Other business on the agenda will be the proposal of a citizens group that will prepare a response to the City’s future (Spring 2020?) RFP for golf management with a Golf Board established to oversee the courses and hire a golf manager.  This idea was discussed at the January 2020 FODPG meeting and listed in the minutes of that meeting.   
This is the opportunity for you to participate in the development of a plan that will represent the citizens’ ideas on golf course operation. All interested parties are invited to join in preparing this document.  Committees may be formed to prepare their committee’s plan that will ultimately be incorporated into a draft RFP proposal.  Possible committees are: strategic business plan, management, clubhouse, irrigation, activities & events, marketing & advertising, fundraising, greens, charitable events, etc.  
Come and share your ideas for the future of the golf courses!
FODPG Board of Directors

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