‘You don’t need to close this golf course!’

‘You don’t need to close this golf course!’BY ED FELIEN

Jerry Mullin told a crowd of about 100 supporters on Tuesday, Aug. 15, “You don’t need to close this golf course.  Right now, 58% of the water pumped out of the golf course goes into the lake and then back into the golf course.  We could pipe that water somewhere else.  If you take down the dam at 27th Avenue that’ll lower the water level of the lake by 1 to 2 feet.”

Mullin is not just an ardent supporter and a neighbor, he’s also a former employee with Barr Engineering.  He’s well acquainted with their engineering study of the golf course and its conclusions.
At its Aug. 9 meeting, the Park Board voted 6 to 3 to stop pumping water out of the Hiawatha Golf Course by the end of the season in 2019.  That means the course will be flooded because of the dam holding back 2 to 4 feet of water at 27th Avenue.  Rather than take down the dam, the Park Board has decided to take down the golf course.

Meg Forney, Jon Olson and Annie Young were the commissioners who voted against stopping pumping and, thereby, voted to keep the 18-hole golf course open.  Forney is the only one running for re-election as a park commissioner at-large, for one of three positions representing the whole city.
It will be a two-year process to turn off the pumps and close the course, so there is hope that a new Park Board elected this fall could change this decision and save the course.

Bill Shroyer, a candidate for Park Board in the 5th District, told the commissioners, “This decision should not be made by lame duck commissioners.  This issue will be kept alive, and supporters of Hiawatha golf are not going to give up this movement.”  He said the process “has been manipulated to ignore the strong support for Hiawatha golf.  The dredging of Minnehaha Creek and Lake Hiawatha has not been seriously considered, even though the Park Board dredged the Mississippi River to construct an island and a swimming beach.”

Shroyer spoke at the rally Tuesday in support of keeping the golf course open.  Charley “Golf” Casserly also spoke in favor of keeping the course open.  He’s running citywide.  And Bob Fine, who used to be on the Park Board, also spoke about the need to keep this vital resource alive in South Minneapolis.  He’s running in the district that covers Southwest Minneapolis, west of 35W.

If Shroyer can win in the 5th District, and if Forney and Casserly can win citywide, and if Fine can win in the 6th District, then in order to change this decision, supporters of Hiawatha golf would just need one more vote to get to five votes and a majority on the new Park Board, and, then, they could overturn this decision to close Hiawatha Golf Course by this season’s flock of lame ducks.

Southside Pride will continue to monitor the electoral landscape and report on the prospects of keeping golf at Hiawatha.

We sent a One Question Questionnaire to all candidates running for Park Board: Southside Pride is very interested in your position regarding Hiawatha Golf Course. Would you support keeping the 18-hole course?

Meg Forney, the only at-large incumbent running for re-election, answered: “Yes, I did not support the resolution to reduce groundwater pumping at Hiawatha based on three reasons.  Although I respect our park staff and Barr Engineering’s analysis, I am still optimistic that a resolve can be found.  Secondly, Hiawatha is a revenue producer—note please: It is not a profit maker.  But contrary to other assets in the park system, Hiawatha has helped to sustain itself. The impact on the taxpayer needs to be seriously weighed. Lastly, the fact that the Bronze Tournament originated here gives it historic importance. Since 1959, this tournament has been taking place in Minneapolis, started because of racial barriers for African-American golfers. In a time when there are so many racial disparities, the impact of loss of this community asset is profound.”

Mike Derus, another citywide candidate, wrote: “I have been doing research on the proposed changes to the Hiawatha Golf Course and I have come to the conclusion that we need to preserve and protect this course. Hiawatha has historic and practical value from an equity standpoint. Hiawatha is the first course in Minneapolis that allowed minorities to play, which I believe to be significant and worth preserving on its own merit.

“In addition, the neighborhood by and large does not appear to want the proposed changes. I know that if changes were being proposed in my neighborhood I would want my elected officials to give serious consideration to our opinions. I think we should extend the same courtesy to the impacted neighborhoods.

“I hope we can preserve this course for generations to come.”

Charlie Casserly, another at-large candidate, wrote: “Yes, I do support keeping Hiawatha at 18 holes. That’s what I want, the current 18-hole championship format.

“Ed Felien is absolutely right about the dam/weir at the outlet of Lake Hiawatha into Minnehaha Creek. I’ve attached a scan of two photos of it.

“Here I am, standing on the dam in 1974 after it was installed, along with two of my siblings. The water level is more than a foot lower than the top of the dam. (I grew up a stone’s throw from the outlet on 27th Ave.)

“Today, and for decades, the top of the weir is well under water, even during drought years. The lake level has risen artificially, there can be no doubt of that.

“Is the high water today the reason the golf course pumps have to work? I’d say likely. And is the dam/weir the reason there’s high water? I’d say there are likely multiple causes.

“If the watershed district likes to keep water flowing in the creek, that’s an admirable goal. Perhaps it is ‘unsustainable’ to do so. If we remove the dam/weir, the creek may run dry again as it did in the past, between rains. I can live with that.

“Let’s find a solution, or solutions, and save Hiawatha Golf Course.” Those are the three responses we have received from the three at-large candidates. There are three open slots. You can vote for all three.

There are three candidates running for the Park Board seat from District 3, which includes all of the Phillips/Powderhorn delivery area. Two candidates responded to our One Question Questionnaire:

Candidate Abdi Gurhan Mohamed wrote: “I look forward to having a strong community engagement and output in regards to Hiawatha Golf Course. It’s important that their voices are heard and they have a say in it. We have a lot at stake, and all parties involved have to come up with a solution that serves everyone.  I seek to be a fiscally prudent elected official so will analyse the pros and cons of the golf course seriously, and data will drive my decision making. I believe elected officials work for the voters, and it’s only fair that they listen to the communities they serve and take notes and implement the needs of the residents.”

Candidate Charles Exner wrote: “The MPRB must properly honor the history of the Hiawatha Golf Course as well as the wishes of those who use it as they proceed with the 6-3 decision to transition the golf course into a multi-use space, and end the illicit and ecology-blind water pumping that threatens homes and our environment. To respect the legacy of the course to African-American golfers, the park building should feature an exhibit of the effects of segregated sports and the importance of and struggle for diversity in athletics. As a compromise with the current golf aficionados, I support implementing a driving range and/or the consistently lucrative and family-friendly Putt-Putt course in the multi-use space. The other half can honor our indigenous history by becoming a food forest intermingled with native bog plants.”

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