UPDATE | Nonprofit group hopes to reopen Holmes Harbor Golf Course

Bill Mannello and Paul Olmi aerate a section of the Holmes Harbor Golf Course on Thursday. The course was closed by its owner in March, but a nonprofit group is working to reopen it soon. - Brian Kelly / The Record
Bill Mannello and Paul Olmi aerate a section of the Holmes Harbor Golf Course on Thursday. The course was closed by its owner in March, but a nonprofit group is working to reopen it soon.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

Holmes Harbor Golf Course at Freeland will reopen next month as a public facility, if community members and the Holmes Harbor Sewer District have their way.

A nonprofit corporation, the Holmes Harbor Recreation Association, has been formed to operate the 18-hole golf course, which was closed by its private owner on March 14 for economic reasons.

A community meeting outlining the association’s plan is scheduled next week. The group hopes to reopen the golf course on May 17.

“A lot of things have to come together, but it’s doable,” Stan Walker, president of the sewer district board of commissioners, said Thursday.

“Our hope is to increase play and drop prices 10 percent and break even,” Walker said. “That’s all we have to do.”

The golf course is essential to the sewer district as an outlet for water from its nearby treatment plant through the golf course’s sprinkler system. The distribution is required by the state Department of Ecology.

As much as 14 million gallons of treated water per year have been dispersed onto the golf course during the spring and summer since 1994.

The district has been paying for mowing and other maintenance on the course since it closed to ensure proper evaporation, a cost that projects to about $80,000 a year, Walker said.

Under the new plan, the recreation association would take over that cost from the sewer district, he said.

Owners of the course, Holmes Harbor Community Partners, is permitting the sewer district free use of its facilities and equipment. The reopened course would include use of the pro-shop portion of the clubhouse, but there would be no bar or restaurant, Walker said.

A five-member recreation association interim board has been formed to oversee the course. Down the road, the sewer district hopes to buy the golf course itself “so this kind of closure will never happen again,” Walker said.

Next week’s public meeting outlining the association’s plan will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 29 in the Trinity Lutheran Church gymnasium in Freeland.

“We want a lot of people to come and hear the details, and to support the course as a community effort,” Walker said.

He said the association’s interim board members, all Holmes Harbor residents, will be introduced at the meeting, and that memberships will be sold and tax-free donations collected. He said backers of the effort hope to raise about $20,000 to get the project off the ground.

Walker said that the recreation association qualifies as a 501(c)3 nonprofit because it will “reduce the burden of government.”

Holmes Harbor Community Partners, an independently managed project of the Schuster Group, blamed the course’s closure on the poor economy, a soft market for recreation services and the inability of the company to restructure its debt.

The course and the clubhouse remain for sale.

Walker said a new appraisal of the property has been ordered, and that the sewer district hopes to find a way to buy the parcels making up the course itself.

“That’s going to take awhile, months I would say,” he said. “We’ll have to look at our budget and at what the asking price is. We’ll look at it when we know more.”

The 54-acre, par-64 golf course has been for sale for more than a year.

According to the Island County Assessor’s Office, the course and nearby parcels owned by Holmes Harbor Community Partners have an assessed value of more than $2.6 million.

The golf course was designed by Sikma Enterprises Inc. in 1994. Developer Mark Schuster bought the course from former Seattle Supersonics basketball star Jack Sikma in 2003.

The course was ranked in the top 20 golf courses in Northwest Washington by Northwest Business Monthly in 2007.

Walker said the association’s concept going forward is all too familiar.

“The owner says the course has been nonprofit for the last five years,” he said.

“Everybody always says they want it to be open and operating,” Walker added. “Our hope is that the public will support it by playing lots of golf.”

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