An overflow crowd attended a community meeting to show support for maintaining the 65-year-old golf course in Stockton, Calif., as either a golf facility or greenspace. Citizens are concerned that the city would sell the 214-acre site to a real estate developer, negatively impacting property values, traffic, and safety.
An overflow crowd of supporters of Swenson Park Golf Course in Stockton, Calif., descended on Swenson Park Café on January 7, only to be told there were too many of them and they had to move their meeting outside, the Stockton-based Record reported.
Their numbers, an estimated 400, are a testament to the support within the city for ensuring the 65-year-old golf course remains open or, at the very least, be maintained by the city as a greenspace within the surrounding residential community, the Record reported.
“Wow! I’m totally overwhelmed,” Save Swenson organizer Blair Hake said to open up the community meeting. “This is what’s right. This is what’s right for the future of Stockton. This is what we need to do. We need to preserve this open space; this group came together and decided that’s going to be our main objective. Preserve this open space for whatever the community wants it to be—that’s what we want it to be.”
The greatest concern for the 214-acre site, among golfers, neighborhood residents and the Lincoln Unified School District that has two schools next door, is that the Stockton City Council would vote to sell Swenson Park to a yet-to-be-identified real estate developer, negatively impacting property values, traffic and student safety, not to mention the irreplaceable loss of activity and greenspace, the Record reported.
The city has been concerned about the financial viability of its two golf courses, Swenson and Van Buskirk Municipal Golf Course, since 2010 as revenues continue to lag and maintenance costs climb. The courses saw their peak play in the early 1990s, with rounds of golf played declining 66 percent over that time, the Record reported.
During the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the city provided an $850,000 subsidy to the private company that manages the two courses. Officials have said that Van Buskirk’s irrigation system needs to be upgraded to the tune of $5.4 million, and both courses need additional repairs costing up to $4 million, the Record reported.
For the Swenson supporters, that part of the problem is simple: deal with the two courses separately, the Record reported.
The city is moving forward with environmental and traffic impact studies, Hake said, but he hopes to convince officials that more time is necessary to allow community members to come up with solutions to save Swenson. Hake, who works as a private-sector financial adviser, said he has been stymied by the city in his efforts to get “real numbers” on golf course operations, the Record reported.
The Save Swenson organizers plan to have a petition prepared by the City Council meeting on January 23 that calls for changing the zoning of Swenson Park to keep it as open space in perpetuity. With the approval of the petition language, the organizers will have 90 days to get approximately 13,000 signatures of registered Stockton voters in order to get a vote on the proposal, the Record reported.
In addition to the petition drive, Hake is looking into establishing a board of directors for Swenson Park that similar to the voluntary advisory group assisting the city in overseeing the success of Pixie Woods Children’s Park, the Record reported.
While Hake did his best to keep Sunday’s meeting nonpolitical, he did allow some politicians to speak.
City Councilwoman Susan Lofthus declared herself “110 percent” with the crowd in attendance. “I have got so many positive ideas about what we can do about keep it a golf course, keep it a green land. Under my watch, Swenson isn’t going anywhere.”
Lofthus indicated she will be hosting a town hall meeting January 29 to shed more light on the issues, the Record reported.
Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs also addressed the crowd, despite some hostility directed at him: “The question is not whether golf is good or bad, not whether Mayor Tubbs is good or bad. The question is how do you make the golf courses pencil out, No. 1—and No. 2, how do you pay for the millions of dollars in capital improvements?”
As he has pointed out before, Tubbs said, “It’s not a creativity issue, it’s a math issue. And again, since 2010, your city councils and mayors have been trying to figure out—they contracted out to an outside agency, they brought in the National Golf Foundation, and in May the council instructed the city manager to come back with some proposals.
“We had a marathon meeting on December 4. We told the city manager to come up with some other options that also preserve greenspace.”
Tubbs then emphasized that “nothing has been decided yet” and encouraged those in attendance and other community members to use Swenson and Van Buskirk facilities more. “Then we won’t be having this conversation,” he said.
Pete Arbios was among those attending Sunday’s outdoor meeting. The retired Lincoln Unified employee is an avid Swenson golfer and lifelong Stocktonian who considers the tree-studded course “iconic,” the Record reported.
“I’ll do whatever it takes. We have to find a way to take care of the grounds,” Arbios said. “With all these minds here, we ought to be able to come up with a solution. I can’t imagine having a subdivision here.”