PORT TOWNSEND — After a pause due to COVID-19 pandemic health measures, the City of Port Townsend has returned to work on a community engagement program to help decide the future of the Port Townsend Golf Course.
“This is a long time coming,” said City Manager John Mauro. This is something that was squarely in the public eye as I was being recruited in mid-2019. At that time, council determined to explore looking at alternative uses for the golf course.
“We re-wrote the contract and issued it to the same contractor for three years. That was all around the time COVID-19 happened so we have been waiting to re-emerge to be able to do some real engagement,” he added.
The community engagement plan was broken into four phases, but no timeline for those phases was delineated.
The nine-hole course was privately owned when it was developed in 1904. The course was converted into a public one in 1927 and was originally managed by Jefferson County before the City of Port Townsend took over ownership.
In 2018, a National Golf Foundation study of the course, at 1948 Blaine St., found that the aging facility needed $1.2 million in capital improvements.
Those upgrades included improvements to the irrigation system and pump house, tree and stump removal, purchase of maintenance equipment, clubhouse repair and course repair.
At the time, the council chose not to pursue the recommendations for those upgrades, saying costs were prohibitive.
Instead, in 2020, following presentations in October and November, the council chose to continue with golf services for another three years by entering into a contract with Gabriel Tonan Golf Shop.
During that time, the city planned to investigate alternative use concepts for feasibility and develop and refine them with broad community involvement.
The city has previously sought community engagement on this subject, with a recent discussion as part of the Park, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) plan update.
The PROS plan community engagement showed there has been limited use of the golf course and overall interest in the sport as a recreational activity.
“Most vision survey respondents did not have an opinion on the golf course’s operation, investment or use,” said Carrie Hite, director of Park and Recreation Strategy.
“For those who did have an opinion, most did not want to make capital investments, set a cost recovery policy or explore partnership options. Some did not want the city to stop operating the golf course, but others were supportive of exploring alternative options,” she added.
Among ideas for the golf course that stemmed from the PROS plan for the city to explore are:
• Continuing to operate the golf course.
• Have multiple recreational uses of the property, but also allow for golf on designated days.
• Repurpose the course to be used for more active sports and manage it as part of a complex with Mountain View.
• Covert the course to a nature park.
• Surplus the space for non-park uses.
“Prior to community engagement, we would like to hire a landscape architect to help us with concept planning,” Hite said.
“It’s really easy to sit around and talk about what you want to do, but it’s really nice to have someone who is a professional in the field to start to do some concept planning with the community and, along with the concept planning, looking at a cost/benefit analysis with timing and phasing if there is some repurposing of the golf course.”
The first phase of the community engagement plan will be focused on reviewing the existing and current conditions of the course, creating focus groups to guide the engagement process and make it equitable.
Phase two is focused on creating a visioning process with the community in as many ways as possible, both in person and virtually.
Phase three is when the city will begin to receive community input reflecting on the concepts.
Phase four is the final phase in which city staff will gather feedback and present it to the city council along with a recommendation.
“In each phase, there is a touch point with parks board and the city. These are built into the process,” Hite said.