A reappraisal of groundwater at a golf course built largely atop a fill-in wetland has cast doubt on the strategy and timetable for restoring flood-damaged Hiawatha golf course in Minneapolis to its full 18 holes.
Park officials announced shortly before a public meeting Tuesday night at Nokomis Community Center that initial data obtained Friday revealed groundwater volume at the course to be much greater than previously known. That news derailed plans to discuss at the meeting three alternatives for renovating a course that’s 81 years old after torrential rains ravaged it nearly 15 months ago.
Restoration of Hiawatha already was behind the similarly damaged Meadowbrook course in St. Louis Park, also owned and operated by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, on a path toward repair and reopening the full course. Meadowbrook expects to open 15 holes in spring, 2017.
“The underlying assumptions about this project have changed drastically,” area park Commissioner Steffanie Musich said, labeling the degree of groundwater pumped from the course already “shocking.”
She drew scattered boos from some golfers when she pledged that the course would remain a park, even if golf can’t be maintained. Some neighbors have been lobbying for more intensive winter use of the site for cross-country skiing; others want walking paths.
Michael Schroeder, an assistant park superintendent, said the goal is to keep golfing at Hiawatha, but that’s also being considered in combination with environmental benefits and accommodating neighborhood recreational use such as walking trails.Schroder said park officials had more question marks than answers.
That makes discussing renovation strategies fruitless for now, he said. Park officials had planned to present two rebuilding concepts for 18 holes, one a mere restoration and one making it less prone to flood damage, and a third of nine holes that would have accommodated other recreation.
By one calculation, the amount of water infiltrating into one pond on the course is 273 million gallons annually, compared to a permitted 38.5 million gallons. That means that without pumps, groundwater might overwhelm the course. Pumping keeps ponds on the course two feet below fairway level. Schroeder said.
Once a fuller report due in November analyzes groundwater conditions, the park staff will be ready to consider whether and how to reconfigure the course.
Golfers are impatient to regain use of the more flooded and damaged back nine holes of the course. The front nine are open.
(Above: The Hiawatha course as it loked immediately after torrential rains in June, 2014)