The city and the Oswit Land Trust split the cost of a land appraisal for the 36-hole property, after the Trust approached the city about buying the golf courses with the intent of returning the land to the natural watershed. Obstacles include the cost of the land itself and five to seven more years of a $1 million-per-year debt service on city bonds that were used to build the second Resort Course in 1995.
David Ready, the City Manager for Palm Springs, Calif., said the city is not selling its two municipal golf courses, the Palm Springs Desert Sun reported. At least not yet.
“This was a very initial step of a very long process,” said Ready of the city council’s decision to spend $14,000 to appraise the land on which the 36-hole Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort sits. “And that process will consist of significant public input and I would say a series of council meetings and neighborhood meetings.”
The expenditure of $14,000, approved as a consent calendar item in the city council’s Sept. 24 meeting, covers half the cost of appraising the Tahquitz Creek land, the Desert Sun reported. The other half of the funding will come from a partnership of the Oswit Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land. It is the Oswit Land Trust that has approached the city about buying the golf courses with the intent of returning the land to the natural watershed.
“My belief is in working with the council for 20 years, there is no intention of, hey, we are going to sell it and build houses,” Ready said. “It’s really one of two things. Either the city long term needs to be prepared to run it as a golf course as it concerns the city interest, the citizens’ interest, as a tourist attraction, or if the city determines it is not viable to do that anymore, the best alternative would be to turn it back into natural open space.”
The Oswit Land Trust, operating at the time under the name Save Oswit Canyon, previously partnered with the city to purchase land near west of South Palm Canyon Drive and Bogert Trail at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains in Palm Springs to stop a proposed 230-unit residential housing development, the Desert Sun reported. At the trust’s website, mesquitedesertpreserve.com, Tahquitz Creek is never mentioned, but the site does talk about trying to acquire Mesquite Country Club and the site of the abandoned nine-hole Bel-Air Greens golf course, both west of Tahquitz Creek’s Resort course.
“Both golf course owners are trying to sell to developers. Instead, our vision is to purchase the land and make it a desert preserve for the entire community to enjoy,” the web site states. “This desert preserve would create a beautiful natural desert setting with walking paths, educational plaques, community gardens and more. Just ask yourself, would you rather look at a construction site [or another failed construction site] or a phenomenal desert preserve?”
Tahquitz Creek consists of two 18-holes golf courses, the Legends Course that was bought by the city as it was being built in 1959, and the Resort Course that was built with city bond money and opened in 1995, the Desert Sun reported. There is also a clubhouse and parking lot and a driving range. The Legend Course runs through a residential neighborhood, often with houses on both sides of a hole. The Resort Course runs east and west through the Tahquitz Canyon wash and has no homes along the fairways.
Ready told the Desert Sun a sale by the city would likely be both courses, not just one, because keeping one golf course would not make economic or business sense.
“Both have to be a golf courses or not at all,” Ready said.
The idea of selling the golf courses stems from a more-than-decade-long slide in participation in the game and the closure of courses across the country including three in the desert in the last 10 years, the Desert Sun reported. While the Tahquitz Creek courses do not make a profit directly for the city, Ready said there are other benefits to the courses, including being an amenity to city residents.
“It’s a cost operational liability,” Ready said. “But it could have other benefits, particularly on the tourism side. The question is, is golf as big a tourism benefit as it was, particularly with more competition in the valley and fewer people playing the game?”
Even if the city moves forward with selling the Tahquitz Creek courses, there may be some obstacles for the Oswit Land Trust in purchasing the courses, the Desert Sun reported. First could be the cost of the land itself, and second could be what Ready called five to seven more years of a $1 million-per-year debt service on the city bonds that were used to build the Resort Course.
“It’s roughly about $1 million a year in debt payment, then we have a 30-year-old golf course that needs significant upgrades in infrastructure or the clubhouse,” Ready said. “A new bond might be brought into the picture.”
Either way, Ready told the Desert Sun nothing will be decided by the city until it hears from citizens, including golfers.
“There are competing interests, but that is why this is just the beginning of a long and extensive discussion including the community and the council,” Ready said. “The overreaching goal, it is my belief, is that whatever occurs will have to serve the community, the neighborhoods and the city.”