The mood at the Friends of Fort Ridgely annual picnic last week was somber, according to Friends member Randy Krzmarzick, as members considered the likely closure of the state park’s 90-year-old golf course.
The course, slated for conversion to prairie, became a rallying point for the Friends as they sought donations from players and support from politicians who might help them craft a plan to keep it open.
The campaign is nearly a year old, but recent signs of the Friends’ imminent defeat have proved hard to ignore.
“Nothing looks real promising right now, to be honest,” Krzmarzick said Friday.
A surprise ‘No’ vote from the Fairfax City Council left the Friends without a government entity and fiscal agent to pursue their plan to lease the course from the DNR and run it themselves.
Friends member Loran Kaardal said he heard some concern that the Fort Ridgely golf course might hurt business at the nine-hole Mayflower Country Club just 5 miles to the north. And, he said, some taxpayers feared the city would get stuck with costly maintenance bills if the course wasn’t profitable.
The Friends raised some $38,000 in cash plus $40,000 or more in pledges to fund their effort. Some of that money was spent on an attorney who handled negotiations with the DNR. More funds were spent on leased golf course equipment the group planned to use once the fairways reopened.
After Fairfax turned down the Friends and refused to lease the course from the DNR, Kaardal and the others turned to Nicollet County, but they were rejected there, too. Talks with the nearby town of Sleepy Eye haven’t yielded anything, and town officials there indicated they were already too busy with local projects to take on something else.
“I think the fat lady has sung,” Kaardal said.
The state closed the nine-hole course the day after Labor Day last year. The DNR said the money-losing course south of Fairfax, a town of about 1,200 people 100 miles southwest of Minneapolis, no longer fit with the agency’s plans for the site, which include a larger project highlighting the area’s history in the U.S.-Dakota war of 1862.
Krzmarzick was among those who maintained the shuttered course in the hope that it would reopen. The agreement that allowed volunteers to mow the grass expired June 30.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” he said.