The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District should not operate a public golf course.
The Holmes Harbor Sewer District owns the closed golf course that homeowners need for disposing of their treated waste water. Whether golfing is taking place or not, it will cost the sewer district approximately $70,000 annually to maintain the 50-acres, keeping it mowed and the water dispersal system in shape. It’s no wonder they would like someone else to take over the expense.
One sticking point is that the old clubhouse and maintenance shop are still owned by a private party, which did not sell the buildings along with the acreage. They too would benefit from a functioning golf course, either through leasing the structures or taking advantage of the crowds to reopen the restaurant. Unfortunately, this revenue stream is lost to the parks district.
The parks district may be able to run the golf course on a break even basis, but the long history of golf course failures at Holmes Harbor suggests otherwise. It would almost certainly be a losing proposition. The parks directors recently discussed a 9 cent per thousand assessment, which would require a vote of the people. That won’t fly and isn’t worth the cost of putting it on the ballot.
South Whidbey indeed is home to many golfers. Those with money can join Useless Bay Golf and Country Club, those without can enjoy the par 3 Island Greens, the public Gallery Golf Course on North Whidbey or numerous courses on the mainland. They don’t need a public subsidy to play golf on Whidbey Island.
The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District has a splendid history of building facilities for the use of children and the public at large. Everyone wants kids to have decent ballfields and playgrounds, and anyone can enjoy the grounds for picnics, Frisbee tossing, hiking, jogging or just relaxing. The facilities are for everyone, not just those who pursue a particular hobby. The district changed its focus a bit by taking on managing public boat launches at three lakes, but these too benefit many islanders who enjoy boating, swimming or just being near fresh water.
This latest proposal for a parks district project is too focused toward a single user group. It’s simply not worth pursuing and risking the public’s money and the public’s trust.