Everything from Japanese gardens to space for pickleball, baseball, lawn bowling or operating remote-control aircraft was suggested at a community outreach session held to discuss possible new uses for the Players Course in the Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley, Calif. But plenty of advocates for keeping it as a golf course also made their presence known.
Users of Mile Square Regional Park gave officials in Orange County, Calif. the feedback they were looking at a community outreach session held on January 16, the Los Angeles Times reported, as the county started the process of repurposing a 93-acre swath of the Fountain Valley, Calif. park that is currently a golf course.
C&RB reported before the meeting on the county’s intention to find new uses for what is known as Players Course (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/california-course-could-be-on-chopping-block/). The new plans would replace the 18-hole Players Course, which is one of two public courses in the Mile Square Golf Course complex and one of three courses in the 640-acre park (an executive course is in the park’s northwest corner).
Mile Square Golf Course LP, the operator of the two-course complex—which also includes the 18-hole Classic Course—told the county it wanted to scale back its operations after it fell behind $3.6 million on its rent in the face of a cooling golf industry, the Times reported. The county renegotiated its lease with Mile Square Golf Course LP last year, dropping the base rent to $850,000 a year from $3.1 million and cutting the county’s share of greens, driving range and rental revenue roughly in half.
The county also agreed to cancel the rent debt by taking back the 93 acres occupied by the Players Course, the Times reported. The course is still open, and the operator has until January 2021 to return the land.
At least 100 people filled Freedom Hall in the park during the session, the Times reported, to tout everything from using the space as a spot for flying radio-controlled aircraft, to turning it into an area for baseball or lawn bowling. And proponents for keeping it as a golf course also made their presence known.
County parks staff members and design consultants gave a basic outline of what the county might do with the land—performance space, sports fields, picnic spots, open space—while asking the audience to help them fill in the details, the Times reported.
Matthew Hall, principal of EPT Design, a Laguna Beach, Calif. landscape architecture firm and county parks consultant, said the county has four broad goals in repurposing the space: reconnect with nature, create a cultural hub, improve circulation for cars, bicycles and pedestrians, and promote education and engagement. Hall described the proposed cultural space as a potential regional destination for performances or markets, the Times reported.
The county will take input through the first half of 2019 before starting planning in earnest in the fall, the Times reported. It could break ground on new features in early 2021 and open them by 2022.
Hall took notes at the meeting as people approached him beside an illustration of a possible layout for the next phase of the park. “People [are] wanting Japanese gardens, [a space for] remote-control airplanes,” he told the Times. “A gentleman here is from the Audubon Society.”
A group of men toting a model aviation magazine and a homemade blue glider explained how they’d like open space to fly, the Times reported. Pickleball players brought their gear in backpacks designed to hold the paddles and perforated balls used in the game.
Charlyn Moltane and Adriana Sandoval were there to promote lawn bowling, the Times reported. The game requires a smooth grass surface measuring 120 square feet for players to roll notched balls at a target. In a three-page proposal, Moltane, president of the Santa Ana Lawn Bowling Club, made her pitch for two greens.
Sandoval, an Irvine resident who is marketing director for Bowls USA, said Southern California is the organization’s most active area, with 28 clubs in the Southwest division reaching from Cambria to San Diego. Seven clubs are in Orange County, including Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, the Times reported.
The clubs are so successful that they’re “busting at the seams,” Sandoval said, and another lawn bowling facility in the region would be a welcome addition.
Golfers, however, were vocal in their opposition to the prospect of losing the Players Course, the Times reported. After loudly announcing their disappointment that the meeting was not town hall-style—one rallied the crowd with “Yeah, keep the park the same!”—they crowded around Dylan Wright, director of Orange County Community Resources, which includes the parks division.
Wright said he would consider any uses, as long as user studies support them, the Times reported. “It is truly a blank slate,” he said.
Steve Crider, who plays golf at Mile Square several times a week, said the Players and Classic courses are equally popular and are booked most days, the Times reported. Golfers were surprised by the county’s plans, Crider added, and had not been given a chance to weigh in before the county and the course operator agreed to the relinquishment.
“I’m not sure this speeding train can be stopped, but the golf community will do anything possible to do so,” he said.
Gary Bennett, a member of the Costa Mesa Senior Golf Assn., said many of his club’s members visit Mile Square. “Not only is it a well-kept facility, it is one of only very few venues that is reasonably priced for senior golfers in [Orange County],” he said. “I believe that none of the [County] Board of Supervisors are avid golfers or have any understanding of what golf means or does for anyone that plays.”