Why is Hiawatha Golf Course important to save if you don’t care for golf? It’s a fair question, however I believe a great park system offers many amenities for people in many different walks of life. Diversity of recreation is part of who we are.
“I don’t play golf”
That’s fine. There are lots of things we pay for in the Parks system that we personally don’t use. If you’re an adult, you likely don’t use the swing-sets or slides. If you’re a 5-year-old child, you likely don’t use the basketball or tennis courts to their full potential.
Hiawatha Golf Course, however, can be used by people from 8 to 80. It is a lifelong sport. It’s a social activity, and gets people away from their screens. Not every sport is for everyone. But I believe in diversity of recreation.
Hiawatha Golf Course also has terrific cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing in the winter, and foot golf in the summer. Flooding of the course may limit skiing in the future, as more of the course land would be unavailable for skiing.
“It’s a waste of green space.”
That is a judgment of which I do not agree. It’s a terrific past-time. It’s a wonderful use of green space . . . It’s practically the definition of green space.
“We could use that land for something else.”
Everything the Park Board has proposed for the golf course land is available across the lake at Lake Hiawatha Park, or across the street, (Minnehaha Parkway), at Lake Nokomis!
Picnic Grounds? Check.
Parking lots? Check.
Bike and walking Paths? Check.
Everything is already there, in place. There are no other golf courses being proposed for Minneapolis.
“The use too many chemicals.”
They don’t. They use chemicals on the course very judiciously, on greens and some tees, and not very often.
Along with the Park Board’s Superintendent of Golf, I will work hard to find ways to eliminate chemical use on the course. But we are not there today, and it would be foolish to broadly eliminate the use of them.
“The pumping is bad.”
The pumping is bad, but not evil. If it were so wrong, why did the board vote to continue pumping shallow groundwater? To save nearby houses! The pumping is not causing the shallow groundwater to be environmentally contaminated. Most of the pumped water goes in a circle: it gets pumped out of the shallow ground, into the lake, and the water seeps back into the shallow ground. It is not pumping water from an aquifer. There is no environmental pollution with pumping.
The pumping is why I seek to have the level of Lake Hiawatha lowered, through the modification or removal of impediments in Minnehaha Creek downstream of Lake Hiawatha. The creek may need to be dredged too. And after 100 years, Lake Hiawatha and the delta may need to be dredged to remove sand, silt and muck deposited from Minnehaha Creek. Dredging the lake may not lower the level of the lake, over time, but we could use the fill some low-lying areas of the course, just as Theodore Wirth did.
As a boy I witnessed the Park Board dredge the delta in Lake Hiawatha. I saw them build the dam or weir at the outlet of the lake. I played on it as a boy. If we need to dredge again, I would not be opposed to it.
“It’s not sustainable.”
Whatever that means…there are multiple definitions of sustainability. The costs of pumping? They are about $10,000/year. So how about we create, through a partnership similar to that which brought solar panels to the Lake Nokomis Big Beach, a solar panel farm to power the pumps? Depending on size, it could pay for the pumping or part of the costs of pumping. Perhaps on the location of the former tennis courts along Longfellow Ave. next to the course, or more on a new pergola over the golf cart corral.
“The course is sinking.”
The Barr Report stated there is no data to state the golf course is sinking. Yet some commissioners continue to state this falsehood.
It’s losing money.”
Some years Hiawatha makes money, some years it loses money. The average over the past 20 years is $120,000, which include the past two years when the course was open only partially. Hiawatha golf makes revenue, not a lot of Park Board activities do that! For example, cross country skiing for the Park Board loses $700,000 a year.
“It’s not inclusive.”
Oh brother, it is inclusive! In the report to commissioners, it stated the reduced-pumping plan would be more inclusive than the 18-hole golf plan. Well of course it would be more inclusive, it would be free to visit as a regular park, as opposed to a golf course where people pay to play!
The course is inclusive now, many people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life play there.
Just because the reduced pumping plan would bring a more diverse crowd does not mean the current diverse crowd is not diverse enough!
Inclusivity is not a good enough reason to close the course.
“It’s not resilient.”
Yes it is. All the major floods over the decades, (1965, 1987, 2014), and a host of minor floods, and Hiawatha keeps bouncing back!
A golf course is a perfect flood plain. Better the golf course flood than our neighborhoods. Along the Red River of the North, golf course dot the riverside, they’re perfect flood plains.
South Minneapolis is filled with former wetlands which were dredged for housing stock, ball fields and parks. My parent’s old house on Shoreview Ave. sank in old fill and cost them thousands of dollars . . . this when you could buy a house for $10,000!