Jeff Stewart, parks and recreation director,  gave a 50 minute presentation with slides during the Feb. 9 Gadner town hall meeting cover the Gardner Golf Course. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz

Jeff Stewart, parks and recreation director, gave a 50 minute presentation with slides during the Feb. 9 Gadner town hall meeting cover the Gardner Golf Course. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz

Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
It was standing room only at a Gardner town hall meeting on Feb. 9 held to discuss the future of the Gardner Golf Course.  City council members attending were Steve Shute, Todd Winters, Rich Melton and Lee Moore.
After introductions by Mayor Chris Morrow, Jeff Stewart, parks and recreation director, gave a 50 minute presentation with slides.
The Gardner Golf Course is an 18 hole, 129.69 acre property owned by the city. The course has been maintained by a private party under a 30 year operating agreement since 1988. Gardner is beginning the process of deciding what to do with the property when the current agreement expires in August 2018.
For the past 30 years, Gardner has collected two percent of the green fees from the course.  The city received $3,122.42 in 2014 and $2,256.11 in 2015.
The presentation indicated a steady decline in green fees over the years, and Stewart referred to a 2015 KC Star article that noted golf course fees have been trending downward nationwide as well.
He also discussed the success of two development projects the City has completed in the recent past – the Gardner Aquatic Center and Celebration Park and Sports Complex.
He said that 37 percent of tourists in Johnson County are drawn to visit public parks, and this results in increased revenue for local business, as well as increased state and local tax revenues.
One advantage the Gardner golf course has over many other courses is that irrigation costs are low, due to the water being drawn from nearby Gardner Lake. The course is not charged for the untreated water.
A disadvantage is that the course has not seen much in the way of improvements over the years and because of that, its reputation has suffered among area golfers.
There are many options for the future of the property. At this stage decisions need to be made on which direction the public wants to go.
Options include continuing as a golf course only, with renovations, course improvements and new updated facilities.
The course could be reduced to 9 holes and become a combination of golf and other types of development.
Or golf could be eliminated entirely, and the property sold for residential or other use.
The purpose of this meeting was to collect some public input on these questions.
At the conclusion of Stewart’s presentation, the attendees were polled on a number of questions. Electronic “clickers” were distributed which tallied responses and provided instant results.
Participants were asked if they had ever played golf at the course at any time during its existence; 86 percent said “ yes.”
About 88 percent responded that they would like to see the course remain as an 18 hole golf only course; 61 percent wanted to see a master plan developed for major improvements and updates to the course, while 34 percent indicated a preference for only minor improvements.
Questions and comments were taken at the end of the meeting.
One attendee read a letter written by his son, which recalled fond memories of being introduced to the game of golf as a child, continuing through his high school years and into adulthood. The sentiment expressed – that the course has long been a valued feature of living in Gardner and is something he would hate to see the community lose – generated substantial agreement from the audience.
This initial meeting laid out the basic issues regarding the future of the golf course and will be followed up with more meetings in the future.