With a city decision on closing Fred Richards Golf Course looming Tuesday, a group of Edina citizens has filed an environmental protest to slow the process and involve more residents in determining the Fred’s fate.
About 230 residents signed a petition to the state Environmental Quality Board asking that the city be required to prepare an environmental assessment of possible changes to the city-owned golf course. They believe the city wants to use part of the course to take stormwater from a large planned development at Pentagon Park across the street.
Colleen Wolfe, part of a group called Save the Fred! that wants to preserve the golf course, said residents want more time for dialogue between the city and community.
“This is a unique area in Edina,” she said. “We want things to slow down, and we have ideas to bring in more revenues. … They’re not listening.”
City officials want to consolidate operations at Fred Richards and Braemar Golf Course to save money. They say golf is losing money as fewer people play, and that savings from closing Fred Richards could be reinvested to upgrade Braemar and make parts of that golf course more attractive to the seniors and kids who play at Fred Richards.
Meetings on the proposal have drawn hundreds of people, most of them pleading to keep the course open.
But the City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on closing the golf course.
“The resident group filing the appeal is concerned with the loss of amenities in the neighborhood, and I completely understand that,” said Scott Neal, Edina city manager. “But we’ve had only half the conversation, about closing Fred Richards. If the City Council approves that, we will engage [residents] in how that land is used.”
Wolfe said residents are frustrated that the city has been vague about how it would use the Fred Richards site. City officials have pledged not to sell the land for development and have talked about keeping it as green space. But Wolfe said residents fear that part of the course could become a stormwater pond to handle drainage from the planned redevelopment of Pentagon Park, an outdated office complex on the south side of W. 77th Street.
“We know that Pentagon Park needs a solution for their water issue,” she said. “Are they closing the Fred to have a solution for the water?
“If they have an alternative motive, we have a right to know … They’re not transparent, and we have a right to know what their motives are.”
City documents on the Pentagon Park proposal say the city and project proposers “will investigate the expanding of the existing ponding areas within the Fred Richards Golf Course to provide additional storage and treatment” of water. Neal said that because the details and scale of the Pentagon Park plans aren’t set, it isn’t clear yet what its stormwater needs might be.
“Is one of the possible futures of Fred Richards Golf Course a reversion to more wetland use, a more wild use in the future?” he asked. “Certainly that is one of the options.”
While the resident group is appealing any changes to the golf course on environmental grounds, Neal said that turning part of the course back into wetlands would be far friendlier to the environment than the golf course, which requires intensive chemical use and watering on its greens and other grass areas.
Wolfe said regardless of what the City Council does on Tuesday, the group will pursue its request to the Environmental Quality Board. The board, which includes representatives from the governor’s office, citizens and nine state agencies, reviews proposals that significantly influence Minnesota’s environment.