Turns out, there will be golf at Fort Ridgely State Park this summer after all.
With strong support from throughout southern Minnesota and from as far away as Hawaii, area residents have raised more than $70,000 to take over the 9-hole Fort Ridgely course, located south of Fairfax, from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The DNR, which spent about $2 million to renovate the course a decade ago, announced plans last year to close it. Citing declining revenue, the agency said it would plow the course under and restore it to natural prairie.
That news didn’t sit well with some local residents, who expressed strong interest in running the 90-year-old course themselves. They launched a fundraising campaign and persuaded the DNR to lease the links, which straddle Nicollet and Renville counties, to the city of Fairfax.
“In a small, rural community, we have to do whatever we can to keep the assets and amenities we have,” said Marcia Seibert-Volz, the Fairfax city clerk, treasurer and administrator.
“It’s very hard to bring in something new, so you have to take care of what you have in the area. If you’re not pushing forward, you’re going backwards.”
Loran Kaardal, a longtime insurance agent in Redwood Falls, helped negotiate the lease, which will go before the Fairfax City Council Tuesday.
Though final details haven’t been worked out, Kaardal said the city is expected to sign a five-year lease starting at around $7,500 a year. The course also will pay a portion of its revenue to the DNR.
Kaardal said the lease won’t cost anything to the taxpayers of Fairfax, a city of about 1,200 residents 95 miles southwest of the Twin Cities. The city only agreed to take on the lease if volunteers committed to raising $100,000.
“That should allow us to secure the necessary equipment and get the course ready without going into debt or using local tax dollars,” Kaardal said. The course is an important piece in the growth of the Minnesota Valley as a recreation region, he said.
And it’s also important to the continued health of the state park, he added.
“The park is part of Fairfax culture,” Kaardal said. “That’s where all the church picnics are. They have plays in the amphitheater. The people have invested a lot of volunteer hours over the years to maintain it and promote activities there.”