Bear Creek golf course plan withdrawn after meeting

       Open-space lovers scored a virtual hole in one April 11 - one public meeting being all it took to stop a proposed golf course in Bear Creek Regional Park.
       Some 200 people, most in opposition, attended the meeting in the Bear Creek Nature Center, loudly applauding any statements that touted the undeveloped park area's natural amenities or that denounced what a golf course might do to them.
       After the roughly two-hour meeting, Judy Bell and Carl Donner, the organizers of the “Bear Creek Links” concept - in which kids would be encouraged with low green fees and instructional help - announced that they would seek another location.
       Donner, a retired golfer and longtime Colorado Springs civic volunteer, said that he and Bell were convinced by the crowd, as well as by apparent lack of backing from El Paso County Parks Board members and Commissioner Chair Sallie Clark, whose district includes the park. “We had some pretty good indications that there would be a large, negative crowd,” Donner said, but added that he and Bell decided to go ahead with the meeting anyway so that people could at least find out what was being proposed. “We're staying positive and going forward,” he said. He had stated at the meeting that he and Bell would “derive no personal benefit” from the project.
       The course was proposed on vacant park land, just east of 21st Street and south of the County Parks offices and the Bear Creek Garden Association. Taking up 30 to 50 acres, it was to have nine short holes, as well as a driving range, clubhouse and practice areas.
       Clark said she believes “Bear Creek wasn't the right fit for this project; however, she likes the concept of making golf affordable to kids and plans to see if there are other county parks where such a golf course might work.
       She praised Bell, who was the first woman president of the U.S. Golf Association (USGA). “Judy is so sweet,” Clark said. “What a passion she has for kids, and you couldn't find a better advocate for the sport.”
       In her comments before the citizens had their turn, Bell told of her love for golf, in terms of promoting athletic skill as well as personal integrity (golf being one of few sports where players take points off against themselves). She also stressed that the course she envisions would be mostly natural, with wildlife corridors and no exterior fencing. Her goal, she said, was a place “where kids can learn the game and feel comfortable and welcome - a friendly place where people can come to play.”
       Many of the speakers noted they had no objection to the concept; they just believed the course should not be in a place that is already natural and well enjoyed. Concerns were chiefly raised about hiker or equestrian safety; use of chemical sprays; excessive water use; the need for more golf courses in general (vouchers for kids at existing courses were suggested); and the potential detriment to trails, open-space serenity and wildlife visitations.
       One speaker, Fred Martinez, described the idea of affordable golf for kids as “altruistic and noble,” but observed (to some laughter), “Skyway, Cheyenne and Broadmoor are not the most disadvantaged areas of Colorado Springs.”
       Another speaker, Sarah Tresouthick, questioned whether a golf course could retain a natural appearance. “Calling a golf course open space is like calling catsup a vegetable,” she commented.
       Groups standing up in opposition included the Trails and Open Space Coalition and the Bear Creek Garden Association.
       A couple of contradictions were noted. Ed Allen, president of the Skyway Homeowners Association (who said he was speaking for himself, not the association), had the crowd on his side when he joshed that a better golf course location would have been the once-vacant Gold Hill Mesa. But the applause waned when he said that he seriously believed an optimum site would be the north part of the Garden of the Gods.
       At least two people said they were opposed to the use of “toxic chemicals” to keep golf-course weeds down - possibly not realizing that County Parks uses chemical sprays in that area now to control state-identified noxious weeds.
       Donner and Bell first proposed the idea at a March meeting of the County Parks Board, which took no action but suggested a public meeting to see how people felt.

Westside Pioneer article