Kingston Calls For Public Meeting on Fate of Municipal Golf Course

Eastern Ontario might have one less golf course by the end of the 2013 golf season.  That is, if the recommendations of city staff put into place.

Before that can happen though, the public will get their say on the future of the city park that golfers have called home for nearly forty years.

The city of Kingston has announced a public meeting on the fate of the Belle Park Fairways Municipal Golf Course for January 29th.

The meeting, set for 7 p.m at the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, will allow community members to vent their concerns about the future of the Montreal Street nine hole course, the only municipal golf facility in the city, and the surrounding park.

The City recently released their full 82-page report by city staff which reached city council on December 4th and outlined detailed options for alternative uses of the  Belle Park Fairways site.

On October 16, 2012, Council directed staff to explore sustainable options for Belle Park and report back to Council prior to budget deliberations.  This was prompted by another year of projected losses for the golf course and driving range.  Those losses amounted to $203,090 in 2011 and are projected to be at a similar level for 2012.  That would put the losses incurred by the golf operations at more than $900,000 since 2007.

Staff identified four (4) options for Council’s review and consideration:

1. Status quo operations
2. Outsource operations of the golf course at Belle Park
3. Terminate golf course operations at Belle Park and implement a passive park
4. Terminate golf course operations at Belle Park and implement a passive park with solar

While the city admits there has been no capital improvements at the course, many badly needed according to a recent consultants report, the staff recommendations for the land are that it’s future does not involve golf in any way.  City staff has recommended that the land be converted to use as  a 56-acre passive park and 30-acre of solar panel operations to generate positive revenue for the city.

This has upset community groups, many of whom have been regular customers at the golf course since it opened in 1975 on a former landfill site.   Belle Park Fairways is the most affordable golf course in the region and is one of few in the city accessible by public transit.

In the report city staff cite extensive investment necessary to maintain the golf operation into the future with a limited possibility that the necessary investments will return money to city coffers.  It is not felt that a private sector company would be interested in operating the golf operations with the current limitations of the business.

The recommendation is that golf course ceases operations after the 2013 and begin conversion to solar panel operations immediately at a capital cost of $8.9 to $12.9MM.  It is estimated that the solar operations would return a net revenue of $330,000 annually.   Projections show the solar operations being fully functional by late 2015/early 2016.

A copy of the full staff report on the future of Belle Park can be found at this link.