Unable to open this year due to flooding from the nearby river, the lifespan of the Belle Park Fairways Golf Course operated by the City of Kingston (Ontario) appears to be all but complete.
City of Kingston staff are reporting to the Mayor and members of the City Council that after more recent public engagement on the subject, they are recommending that the City seek alternative uses for lands that are currently the site for the 9 hole golf course. They are recommending that the adjoining driving range and chipping/putting green remain, and there is still a possibility of a pitch & putt course.
The golf course has been mired in controversy over the last number of years with declining use and increased operating costs for the city. There has not been much capital investment in the golf course in recent years, although a slim campaign to add “HackGolf”, which provides 15″ cups to make the game easier for novices, was embarked on in 2015. It did little to grow revenue.
A Huge Deficit
The report, which will be provided to City Council on September 19th, indicates that there was an operational deficit of $236,424 in 2016, following a deficit of $204,566 in 2015. (See chart below)
The golf course itself has not opened in 2017 after heavy spring flooding in the nearby St. Lawrence River covered some 5.5 hectares, or 23% of the golf course, in water. At one point hundreds of carp were frolicking on the fairways. City staff say it would take some $500,000 to repair the damage from the flooding.
Public Consultation To Continue
After a lengthy and multi-faceted public consultation process (which started some 5 years ago and was recently elevated to a higher level) the City Staff are making the course closure recommendation and want to continue the consultation process as they begin a re-design plan for the 32 hectares of land.
That plan could include naturalization of more areas of the land, trails for hiking/biking/walking, the inclusion of multi-purpose sports fields, development of picnic/playground areas, as well as some way to share the history and culture of the indigenous people who considered Belle Park a significant part of their heritage.
The Staff are recommending to City Council that they “eliminate the operations and maintenance of the 9-hole golf course at Belle Park at the end of the 2017 season and continue to operate the driving range and practice putting/chipping green functions in 2018.”
Effectively, with the golf course currently closed, if Council agrees to this recommendation, the life of the Bell Park Fairways Golf Course, which was founded in 1974, is over