As with a great many other municipalities, the City of Ann Arbor is struggling to make ends meet. And one of the things the city council is targeting are the two municipal golf courses—and especially Huron Hills.
Ann Arbor now maintains two courses. Leslie Park is billed as the city’s “Championship Course,” and is longer, better designed and more well maintained than its ugly stepsister, Huron Hills. But while Huron Hills measures just over 5,000 yards and has more weeds than grass, it’s still special—it’s one of a very few walking-only courses in the state. And most of the front nine is kid and senior friendly.
Some city officials say they’re tired of paying for the losses incurred by the course. But ironically, any alternative use could cost just as much, if not more. An article in the Ann Arbor News notes that:
Almost any other use of the 53-acre Huron Hills property would cost the city more than golf, Jayne Miller (the city’s community-services area manager, who oversees Ann Arbor’s recreational facilities). said.
Whether or not fees fully cover the costs associated with the golf operation, Huron Hills brings in far in excess of what any other activity – passive or active – might yield, said Miller, a recreation administrator who joined the city parks department in 1987.
“While golf hasn’t paid for itself for a number of years, other uses would create bigger expenses,” she said. “Even a natural area costs money to maintain.”
For example soccer fields – which Park Advisory Commission members have discussed – would require mowing, irrigation and other maintenance without providing nearly the revenue that Huron Hills golfers pay in fees: about $192,000 from April through September this past year.
Moreover, the golf courses are run in a so-called “enterprise fund,” separate from other park and rec activities. Among other things, that means the golf fund pays internal “municipal services charges” for things like accounting and payroll, human resources, legal and administrative support.
Any other use would move those charges ($123,000 in 2007) back to the parks and rec budget.
I think it’s easy for people to deride golf as an elitist game—one that the average taxpayer has no business supporting.
But golf really is a people’s game now. The same article notes that a 2004 city resident survey found that 9 percent of those 18 and older played golf—more than the other activities offered by the city, such as tennis, canoeing, cross-country skiing, or basketball. It even turns out to be more than the number who exercise with a dog. Strangely, the city maintains TWO dog parks, with a third apparently on the way.
The same survey found that just as many kids played golf as football, canoeing and skiing. And more kids play golf than skateboard. Yet the city apparently is thinking about building a public concrete skate park.
I don’t skateboard, don’t play tennis, soccer or canoe and don’t own a dog. And yet, I’m expected to pay for those things. Why isn’t golf seen as the same?