The Minneapolis Park Board will delay the closing of Hiawatha Golf Club for at least five years to allow more time for community input on future plans for the land.
The slowdown, approved Wednesday by the Park Board, was greeted with relief by supporters of the course who protested plans to close it in 2019. But keeping it open requires a temporary permit from the Department of Natural Resources to pump groundwater at the current rate to keep the golf course dry.
“Now, instead of reducing the pumping immediately, we are going to come up with alternatives and then reduce the pumping once we have an alternative solution that’s agreed upon,” Park Superintendent Jayne Miller said.
The groundwater pumping at the course — 242 million gallons per year — exceeds what is allowed by the existing DNR permit.
Barbara Naramore, DNR assistant commissioner, said the DNR could issue a temporary permit for a five-year duration, but with a “rigorous plan of progress.”
“Right now we have the Park Board, a public entity [that] is noncompliant with the state water appropriations,” she said. “We clearly want to resolve the immediate compliance issues.”
State and local officials who have heard from constituents concerned about the course questioned Park Board staff at a meeting at the State Capitol on Friday.
Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, whose district includes Hiawatha, said the Park Board needs to solve water issues in the area before thinking about new uses for the land. She also questioned whether the decision to close the course was rushed. “I do see Hiawatha as a symptom of a bigger problem,” she said.
Charles Rodgers, Save Hiawatha organizer and Minneapolis South High assistant golf coach, said the fight to save Hiawatha is not over. “We didn’t get a major victory here,” he said. “We brought attention to it and that’s our goal.”