Ode to space

by Laurie Stewart
Posted 7/26/23

Dear Editor:

To my fellow Port Townsend citizens, Iam mourning. I fear the decision to chop up the golf course is a fatal mistake...

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Ode to space


Dear Editor:
To my fellow Port Townsend citizens, Iam mourning. I fear the decision to chop up the golf course is a fatal mistake.
The proposals put forward are flawed in the extreme, and lack focus and foresight. In the drive to satisfy each of the competing factions clambering for a piece of the pie, the proposed hybrid solutions present a hapless hodgepodge that will end up ruining a precious community asset forever.
As it sits today, the foremost feature of the golf course is that it is open space. It is land still open to the sky, unencumbered for the most part by pavement and buildings, untrammeled by cars and trucks, free from hustle and bustle of crowds and commerce. It is still relatively wild, compared to the surrounding city.
Consider how rare this actually is, open space, and how valuable, increasingly desperately vital for our collective peace and sanity, as well as for the creatures who must share the shrinking spaces still not given over to intensive human use.
Consider also how our children, and their children, will need open space to support and refresh their lives. Do our current desires really rule, to the degree that we are willing to forever commit to extracting more open space from the shrinking store? As long as the golf course is one of the few remaining gems of open space remaining in our midst, might we want to at least pause for real reflection and contemplation of the future, and possibly postpone the decision for a generation or two? Can't we kick this particular can down the road a piece, take a collective breath, and look for alternatives that would lessen our impact on the our common home?
I submit that the highest and best use of the golf course property is to remain as open space. Whether the land is then devoted to golf, or parkland, urban forest, or some other natural culture makes perfect sense, but to cover it with pavement, aquatic center, parking lots, pickle ball courts, housing, or any other intensive use seems shortsighted and thoughtless, akin to a kind of cultural suicide.
I have enjoyed golfing at the Port Townsend Golf Course for three decades. I have spent many hundreds if not thousands of hours there, in all seasons and weathers. I have seen and absorbed the minor and major changes in the land, the trees, the condition of the course, the birds and furry critters that dwell there. Owls, geese, quail, eagles, osprey, coyotes, fox and many more, some rare, are resident and depend on the land for their lives. Migratory waterfowl stop for food and rest on their journeys.
I have bathed in the endlessly changing light, felt the sun and wind and rain, delighted in the constantly changing parade of clouds, walked the sloping contours time and time again, watched the seasons come and go. Picked blackberries around the perimeter, plump for pies. Worried about the invasive Scotch broom and poison hemlock. Seen the fall of poplar limbs in windstorms. Planted a memorial pine tree for a fallen friend. Enjoyed the friendship and comfort of easy relations with fellow golfers, laughed and loved and cursed the damnable Game of Golf.
I consider myself and my fellow golfers, as well as the wild creatures that depend on the golf course land, as serious, legitimate, and devoted "stakeholders" in the fate of the golf course property. The plain-faced reality that our intimate knowledge, love and appreciation of the property has been spectacularly under-represented, under-appreciated and discounted in the City process is a travesty. Why were "stakeholders" with little or no knowledge of or interest in the golf course given more weight and credence than life-long golfers? To ignore the input of those most intimately acquainted with the property, aware from years-long close communion with the space and its moods, needs, assets and glories is inexplicable. Please listen.
And if the land is to serve as a golf course no more, please, please, please, for all our sakes, let it remain open space.
I would like to propose a simple solution to the immediate, short term, and possible long term state of the golf course:
1. Sell the Cherry Street Debacle. As a vivid demonstration of the abject record of the City's efforts to produce affordable housing, the Cherry Street Floated-in and Flubbed apartment building on Cherry Street needs no introduction or explanation. Sell the damn thing, immediately, as-is, on the open market to the highest bidder.
2. Earmark the funds from the Cherry Street Debacle sale, to be used exclusively for improvements to the golf course only.
3. Call for proposals for a new lease on the golf course operations, of a term no shorter than ten years, so a prospective leaseholder can invest and plan appropriately. 4. Structure the lease such that innovations in management of the course are mandatory.
Changes in operations might include:
In keeping with a desire to make the golf course property more inclusive and available to non golfers, why not consider the example of St. Andrews of Scotland, widely heralded as the home of modern golf, and close the course to golf on Sundays, and open it to the public. Special days or times for general public use could be arranged. The goal of encouraging everyone to enjoy and treasure this wonderful and unique public asset is eminently worthy and should be explored fully. There is time and room for multiple uses, and my firm belief is that golfers would welcome the idea of sharing the space, as long as we can agree on parameters.
Vigorously promote the course locally and regionally as a premier recreational option for families and particularly youth. Offer classes, teams and competitions.
Encourage the conservation of water for course maintenance. Institute best practices to maintain the course organically, with as little use of herbicides and pesticides as possible, with a goal of no use. Advertise and promote the course accordingly, with a goal of leading the region.
Institute a program for replacement and care of aging and ailing trees and shrubs. Possibly consider fruit and food-bearing varieties. Encourage planting and maintenance of memorials to individuals, particularly native species to support wildlife. Encourage local gardening and horticultural groups and individuals to participate.
Institute programs for removal of invasive species and replacement with natives.
Institute programs to recycle beverage containers and other materials, with appropriate receptacles.
Laurie Stewart