DULUTH – The city will permanently close Lester Park Golf Course, one of two publicly owned courses here, after the 2023 season due to waning use and lack of money for repairs.

Duluth will also work to create a plan to renovate Enger Park Golf Course in time for the 2024 season, according to the city.

For years, the public courses have lost popularity, racking up a debt of $2.8 million.

"When we continued to look at the financial impact of operating both courses, it became clear that the best way to keep a public golf course in Duluth is to recommend the permanent closure of Lester," Noah Schuchman, the city's chief administrative officer, said in a statement.

In 2019, Duluth put out a call for proposals to develop parcels on both courses — an attempt to bring in revenue that could be reinvested in the aging facilities. City officials have said they did not receive any feasible offers, though they said small segments of both courses could still be sold and turned into affordable housing developments if the right proposal emerges.

City leaders closed Lester Park Golf Course last April as a belt-tightening measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is time to turn the page and focus on saving Enger," said Jim Filby Williams, Duluth's director of parks, properties and libraries.

The city's parks department would face roughly $100,000 in cuts each year to operate both courses. The amount is roughly equivalent to the cost of replacing a "modest playground," the release said.

The Lester Park course will remain closed in 2021 and 2022. The city plans to open it for a final season in 2023 while the Enger Park course receives upgrades.

City staff will work with a citizen committee to devise an Enger Park Golf Course renovation plan, which "must provide for a new irrigation system, a modest new clubhouse, a new driving range, and improvement of the worst fairways, greens, bunkers, and tee boxes," according to the release. Filby Williams said that work would likely cost at least $3.5 million and would be mostly financed by borrowing funds on the expectation that future golf revenue would increase.

Duluth expects to present a plan to its Parks Commission in the summer.

Both public courses boast views of Lake Superior and have been around for more than 80 years. City officials said they plan to preserve the original Lester Park course as protected parkland and seek community input on how to use the space after 2023.

Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478