A unit of the golf resort company wants to trade land with the state to create a new public golf course with low fees for local residents.
A land swap proposal by Bandon Biota, a corporate unit of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, was part of the discussion at the bimonthly meeting of the Oregon State Parks Commission on July 20, reports the Coos Bay (Ore.) World.
The proposal, involving land south of the town of Bandon, Ore., drew comments both pro and con, the World reported, at the public meeting that was held in Bandon.
As explained by Bandon Dunes General Manager Hank Hickox, the golf resort company would like to trade the state two parcels it owns that are adjacent to state parks for 220 acres of the Bandon State Natural Area south of Bandon. Bandon Dunes wants to turn that land into a public golf course with low fees for local residents, Hickox said—and as part of the deal, Bandon Biota would control the nettlesome gorse shrubs that proliferate along the Oregon course not only on its own property, but also on adjacent park land.
(The Bandon Dunes resort, which now includes four acclaimed golf courses, was created in the late 1990s after a development team led by owner Mike Keiser devised an innovative way to remove the gorse; see “How Bandon Dunes Makes Its Service as Spectacular as Its Golf,” C&RB, September 2005.)
Hickox spoke for several minutes about Bandon Biota’s idea, the World reported, and made handouts available after the meeting. Coos County commissioner Bob Main, who spoke as part of Hickox’s presentation, said a new golf course would directly create 80 jobs, add others to the local economy, and add property to the tax rolls. Julie Miller, Executive Director of the Bandon Chamber of Commerce, also spoke at Hickox’s invitation, praising Bandon Biota’s good track record of environmental stewardship on its existing properties.
Attendees then had three minutes each to comment. Several people said that because Bandon Biota’s proposal was only for a public course, and would not include accommodations, it would be an economic boon to the town. They also pointed out the benefit of further controlling gorse along the coast, which is highly flammable and invasive.
Seven other citizens echoed those opinions, the World reported, but another eight opposed the swap or said that more information was needed about its details, expressing concern about the environmental impact of another golf course in the area.
One resident said that if the state was short of money, it shouldn’t be considering trading land for a golf course that might be in the enterprise zone and eligible for property tax deferrals, as Bandon Dunes is.
The State Parks Commission staff concluded by saying it would keep working with Bandon Biota representatives on several possibilities for swaps. The commission’s duty, said Commissioner Brad Chalfont, is to ascertain whether the proposed land swap offers an “overwhelming benefit to the state park system,” as opposed to any other public benefit.
Another unrelated land-swap proposal discussed at the meeting proved to be more controversial. As explained by Curry County Commissioner George Rhodes, it would involve having the country take over Cape Blanco Airport from the state and then trading some county land for an unknown amount of the state’s adjacent Floras Lake and Blacklock Point area to create a county park, golf resort, and possibly other developments.
Comments from the crowd of 150 that filled the Harbortown Events Center in Bandon made it clear that many had come to speak against the Curry County plan. No one spoke up for the county’s proposal, the World reported, but 18 spoke against it, with most saying that Blacklock Point was a priceless asset to the Parks Department that shouldn’t be compromised.
A few also criticized the county’s business case for a golf resort, it was reported, by saying that golf hasn’t been an economic panacea for Coos County. And those who thought another golf resort might still be a good idea felt that the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department would be better able to develop one than the county.
A 2008 feasibility study that recommended against development around the airport was also cited. And some in attendance emphasized the importance of keeping the Cape Blanco airport functioning as a state-owned property, because it can be an alternative landing spot when Southwestern Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend is fogged in, and would also be vital in a potential emergency such as last winter’s tsunami scare for the Pacific Coast after the earthquake in Hawaii. Continuing to have the state develop and operate the airport could also continue to promote tourism to the area, not just for golf but also its natural attractions and status as an artists’ haven.
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