Saturday, August 19, 2017

Close HP Country Club in 2018

The Park District of Highland Park is 101% right to close the HPCC in 2018 and naturalize the majority of the Flood Plain property. The Highland Park City Council should work along side the Park District by returning the HPCC lands back to a natural habitat. Citizens do not need to subsidize a second municipal golf course anymore for a very few. Also, with the need to enhance the natural lands to soak up storm water this site can be complementary to a future storm water solution.

In 1993 one of my first votes on the City Council was to purchase the HPCC to protect it from a contract developer (Spatz) from building 100's of homes and covering it with cement and hard structures. This property is largely in the flood way, not just the flood plain. That means it not only stores water, it moves south and flows through it. Past leaders like Mayors Dan Pierce and Ray Geraci beat the drums of preservation for this property. Ray Geraci and I led a group called Save Open Space (SOS) to retain this land unencumbered from structures. It was not about saving a golf course although the revenues of the 1990's did pay off about a 100k a year of the 700k of debt service HP citizens paid off through 2013. As the golf business softened, being in an area of a saturated golf market and a constant need for capital improvements, very little if any golf revenues helped relieve the 10 million dollar debt the citizens encumbered. The bonds were totally paid off as of 2013.

In support of reduction of flood waters along the Skokie River and as a tenured 10 year Councilman, in 2003 I led efforts to naturalize the HPCC and close the golf course. We worked with the LCFPD, Park District, and IDNR to purchase the adjacent "38 acres" and combine all the HPCC property into conservation easements that would withstand time and future political pressures to cash in on open lands. With the support of Dan Pierce we gathered landscape architects, engineers and governments to come up with a naturalization plan that would retain more water, allow better flows, and provide a great natural habitat that could be enjoyed by our citizens. Bike paths, creek channels, tall grasses and a critter rich environment. Because of politics and the complexity of the situation this initiative sizzled out at that time.

The time has come to close the golf course when the new sunset course reopens. We need to reach out to the county, state and federal governments for funding to help enhance our floodway/floodplain Skokie River corridor. The City should not demand money for this property from the Park District since the citizens have already paid 10 million for its purchase once. If there is a need to make a DEAL then look at property to trade but do not demand more that what will help both our city and park district operations. After all, it all gets levied on all the same citizens of Highland Park.

There is no them and us, it is only US. I am hopeful that our Mayor Nancy Rotering and President Brian Kaplan will work TOGETHER. Past City Council's I was part of  worked well with the Park District accomplishing the Aqua Park, new Fredrickson roadway, new fire station, 38 acres, Founders Park and several land trades for $1 like Moraine Park. This is not a deal between advisories, It simply should be an exercise to create a better community and allocate resources to the best management team and government.