East Austin Changes
New plan could turn East Austin parkland into ritzy golf course — but some people are teed off
A new plan before the Austin City Council could turn part of an East Austin park into a golf course. Under the current proposal, approximately 735 acres of the Walter E. Long Park at 6614 Blue Bluff Rd. would be transformed from undeveloped parkland into a world-class, PGA-ready golf destination.
The proposal is being spearheaded by local Joe Ogilvie, a former PGA golfer, and Decker Lake Golf, LLC. According to city documents, if approved, the city would hand over responsibilities to Decker Lake to "finance, design, develop, construct, operate and manage two public golf courses [including] one short course at the park."
Though it would be privately owned, the city would snag a portion of the profits under the current draft of the agreement. For the first 15 years, this would include a monthly fee and an annual lump sum based on revenue. After that, the city's cut would be reduced to only the monthly fee.
According to a contract summary, designers would use a "park within a park" model for the 18-hole course and place special emphasis on an environmentally friendly design. Only city-generated, reclaimed water could be used for irrigation and certification from the The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses would be required. The proposal would be privately funded and cost between $18-$25 million.
In an interview with Community Impact, Kevin Gomillion, golf division manager for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, said the new course could mean that Austin could soon begin hosting PGA tournaments. This combined with tourist revenue and media exposure could elevate Austin to a premier golfing destination.
But this plan is not without its detractors. As KUT points out, that's a lot of east side land to delegate towards a sport that can be quite costly. Local political action committee ChangeAustin.org has been adamant in its opposition to the proposal, noting golf's declining numbers and calling it "a parkland heist." The group recently ran a full-page ad in the Austin Chronicle detailing its argument.
The City of Austin will be hosting a public forum on Monday, November 17 at the Morris Williams Golf Course from 4:30-7:30 pm to take questions and educate Austinites about the proposed course. The City Council is set to vote on Thursday, November 20.