PORT TOWNSEND — Officials with the City of Port Townsend are gathering community input about what to do with the municipal golf course.
In 2020, the Port Townsend City Council, faced with up to $1.5 million in upgrades and repairs, decided to continue to lease management of its nine-hole golf course at 1948 Blaine St., which includes a driving range and clubhouse with a commercial kitchen, for another three years while beginning the process of considering alternate options for the 59-acre site.
On Thursday afternoon, city officials, residents and designers met online and at Port Townsend City Hall to begin the public input process in the first of what planners hope to be several public meetings over the next 10 months.
“This is a transformative project for your community,” said Chris Jones, landscape architect and founder of Groundswell, the Seattle-based firm the city has hired to design potential projects.
Officials are planning a series of public meetings to receive input about the project, but have also set up an 18-member stakeholder group representing various interests in the community.
Members of the stakeholder group include representatives of the Port Townsend Golf Club, the Port Townsend School District, the Mountain View Dog Park, residents, members of the Jamestown S’klallam Tribe and others.
The next stakeholder meeting is scheduled for Oct. 18, and it will be open to the public.
“Projects are only as good as the people involved,” Jones said during Thursday’s meeting. “We put success on a parallel with the involvement of the community.”
The city now contracts management of the course to Tonan Golf Shops, LLC.
A 2019 study done by the National Golf Foundation Consulting, Inc. and commissioned by the city said that the course could become financially viable only if it received upgrades and maintenance repairs costing up to $1.5 million.
“Based upon market conditions with the golf industry, NGF believes that a city-run facility could break even operationally; however, it will not be viable enough to fund the capital needs as well,” according to a city summary of the report presented to the City Council in 2021.
“Also, due to the decline overall in the golf industry, there simply are not enough golf participants to support the City’s public course and the private courses in Jefferson County.”
Carrie Hite, Port Townsend’s director of Parks and Recreation Strategy, said local golfers believe that estimate to be too high and want to commission a study by a group based in the Pacific Northwest.
Still, Hite said, the golf course isn’t making enough money to cover the costs of its capital needs and the city council has ordered staff to explore other uses for the land by seeking community input.
The course sits next to the Mountain View campus, which houses several public facilities, and Hite said officials wanted to look at ways in which the two properties could better complement one another.
At Thursday’s meeting, Jones laid out a tentative schedule of meetings with both stakeholders and the public, broken down into stages.
Jones emphasized the first phase would be focused not on the design team putting forward suggestions but on taking community input for potential options for the site.
In between three open house meetings, planners would periodically meet with the stakeholder group to ensure the project stays sensitive to what the community wants, Jones said.
Jones and the stakeholders spent about 30 minutes drafting decision-making criteria for the project, which included items like preserving green space; ensuring the project remains open to the public; diversity, equity and inclusion; future needs and historical significance.
Tim Caldwell, the stakeholder representing the Port Townsend Golf Club, wanted to include maintaining the space as a golf course as one of the decision-making criteria.
“From my point of view, I’m starting with the golf course and what can be added,” he said.
Jones said decisions about what to do with the space will be made later in the process, with the purpose of Thursday’s meeting being to define a broad set of values to consider as they move forward.
Jones and Caldwell agreed to change the wording from maintaining the golf course to “evaluating current use.”
The city has set up a webpage for the project with pictures and information, as well as an online comment form. The Envision Port Townsend Golf Course page can be reached from the city’s website, cityofpt.us.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at email@example.com.