[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
To the Editor:
Municipal golf courses can make considerable net revenue for a town. Golf is a recreational sport enjoyed by men, women, seniors and juniors. In addition, golf courses can provide a beautiful scenic landscape in some instances, especially in our town of Southborough.
Most often Towns will lease out the golf operations to private companies and these companies will pay the town a significant annual sum. The company operating the St Marks Golf Course makes a profit that in turn pays St Marks School $35,000 a year. St Marks has zero costs with no maintenance costs or employees to pay.
The fact is 18 hole courses are in decline, and that is largely because they take so long to play. On the other hand, 9 hole courses are on the rise, because the time to play 9 holes is one half, and you can make a choice to continue on for a second round of 9, to make 18 holes, if you have time. Fortunately for Southborough, our course is 9 holes, and it is a good quality 9 hole course (more on that below).
The 9 hole course is also a great way to introduce the sport to our youth. The popularity of most junior sports, played by persons between the ages of 6 to 16 are in decline, but golf is one of the exceptions and is on the rise. I will quote from Golf Digest, issue of Nov 2016:
“From 2009-2014 the Sports and Fitness Association reported a 9 percent decrease in overall youth sports participation in the United States. No sport bucked the trend as strongly as golf, whose junior ranks grew by 900,000 in that time.”
Here are some trends worth noting:
Volley ball declined 22%
Football declined 18%
Track and Field declined 10%
Baseball declined 8 %.
Basketball declined 7%.
Baseball declined 5%.
GOLF INCREASED 19%
So much for participation.
Now let us turn to the issue of whether this course is worth saving. How do we know it is a good quality course? Because Mr Brian Silva, who is a world renowned golf course architect, was so concerned about the potential loss of the course, (which he was very familiar with because he played here in his youth), that he flew up here from Florida, at his own expense, to offer us his advice for free. His motto is “Save The Saint”. He provided expert advice on how to modify the course to allow space for the proposed Public Safety Facility, which is to be sited on a small portion of 5 acres next to Woodward School, where the existing golf club house now sits, today. That will leave leave 55 acres for the golf course. This open space will continue to exist under a Conservation Restriction in perpetuity.
Mr Silva’s design criteria have been incorporated into two workable site plans for the modified course, prepared by two separate teams of architects and site planners. Not only that, but the Public Safety Facility Committee is enthusiastic about having a working golf course next to their facility, and they have agreed to shift their facility so that it allows for all 50 parking space needed by golfers in the same northern section, not interfering with the modified golf course. This is proof that the course can be modified and still remain a good quality course that will work very well with a new Public Safety Facility.
What is more, one of the two site plans allows for a potential loop road passing through Woodward School. This loop road would eliminate the circular turn-around now used by school busses, so that the busses could enter the loop road from the south, pick up students, and exit at the north end of the loop. This is what the School Committee has wanted for many years.
[Editor’s Note: David Parry drafted Special Town Meeting Article 3, in support of modifying and preserving the golf course alongside a new public safety building.]
I find this Public Safety Facility (PSF) debate fascinating. There are so many intricate details and moving pieces that involve making a simple decision. In an effort to keep this short, I will just say that with most things in life you always hear safety first. That is until it disrupts your view, space, beliefs, or pocket. The fact of the matter is that Southborough has a rare opportunity to build a new, modern, and up to date PSF in this deal with St. Mark’s with limited sacrifice. Now I won’t list all the reasons this makes sense, but here are a few that make me believe this to be a no brainer.
1. It’s the perfect location and would be near the middle of town with close proximity to the Routes 9/90/495.
2. Not only would it would still allow the golf course to remain intact, it would also leave over 90% of the land essentially intact under a Conservation Restriction (CR) in perpetuity for future generations to enjoy.
3. There would be a cost savings with a combined PSF construction.
The construction of a new PSF is a necessity. Building the Police and Fire Station together makes sense because of the exceptional opportunity of the deal between St. Mark’s and the town of Southborough. You would be hard pressed to please everyone, but a small sacrifice by a few would be of great benefit to many.