PORT TOWNSEND — The majority of Port Townsend City Council members have agreed to limit a request for proposals for the Port Townsend Golf Club to only management of a golf course.
Broadening the use of the golf club to include other recreational activities could come later, said City Manager John Mauro.
The council discussed the issue Monday and expects to make a final decision Aug. 3 with the hope of reviewing proposals in October and preparing for implementation in 2021.
“My thought at this time is that the proper play should be to limit the RFP (request for proposals) to golf alone, to give an opportunity to the golf community to prove out whether or not it’s actually possible for them to continue forward with operating a golf course in Port Townsend,” Deputy Mayor David Faber said Monday.
“If we were to jump ahead of that process and expand the RFP to include other recreations and so forth, I feel this would become a legacy issue that would go on for generations, saying we killed off this thing before letting them prove that it was actually possible.”
The majority of the other City Council members shared Faber’s sentiments, with Mayor Michelle Sandoval being the one dissenting voice.
“I have extremely mixed feelings about doing just the golf course,” Sandoval said. “I know it’s what certain members of the community want, because it has always been a golf course, so it’s always supposed to be a golf course, I guess?
“But if we’re looking at an alternative track with the community and we get the RFPs for simply a golf course, we’re still going to be comparing apples and oranges anyway.”
Sandoval referred to other questions posed to the city that would have the RFP include mixed-use, shared recreational space on the golf course to provide increased access to the park for those who don’t play golf.
The course now is managed by Gabriel Tonan through a lease due to expire in December. After a study advising at least a $1.2 million investment in the course, city officials are considering options for increasing profitability of the golf course and finding a way to maintain it properly.
Alex Wisniewski, the city’s parks, recreation and community services director, told the council on Monday that recent surveys have shown city residents’ participation in golf is declining, but that interest is growing in having access to the open space for non-golfers.
For instance, non-golfers have used the course for socially distanced walking during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisniewski said during his presentation Monday.
Objections to the idea of mixed-use/shared space are that it could hinder golf-centric business models from being successful and that it might be difficult to protect people from golfing hazards placed on the course.
“I would like to have an RFP that has some creative thinking, that perhaps maintains outdoor recreation, whether that means a three-par course, or disc golf or something that can incorporate some housing or some broader public use,” Sandoval said.
In June, the council directed Mauro to start the process of developing an RFP for the Port Townsend Golf Club after the effort was stalled in March due to COVID-19.
Wisniewski on Monday outlined for the council decisions it must make about the desired scope of the RFP.
Should the scope of the RFP be broadened to allow for proposals that offer other public-private partnerships, or should it be focused on being a golf course only? Should the possibility of a mixed-use/shared recreational space be included in the RFP, and should the city incorporate capital investment into the RFP?
“The scope of work basically gets at, what do we want?” Wisniewski said. “It asks the question of what do we, as a city, want from a contractor to come in and provide to us in terms of the services for the management of the golf course.
“This is really the heart of the RFP and really requires us to dig into what we desire for how we want the golf course to be managed.”
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.