Hancock Not Up to PAR(D)

The Community Engagement Process has begun

The Parks and Recreation Department on Tues­day evening kicked off its Community Engagement Process regarding the future of Hancock Golf Course by calling a meeting with representatives from several adjacent neighborhood associations.

The course is caught in a vicious circle, as PARD's Kevin Gomillion laid it out. The number of rounds played at the golf course has continued to drop drastically over the past decade, as course conditions have continued to deteriorate, because maintenance hasn't been funded, because revenues are dropping, because ... well, you get the idea. In economic terms – and PARD staff stressed that the municipal golf courses are an enterprise fund, not part of the General Fund – this is an underperforming golf course, and it isn't going to be profitable even with significant investment.

Staff presented four options:

Continue to operate the golf course as is

Improve the infrastructure of the course

Modify golf operations to increase revenue

Close the course and look for alternative park uses

Neighbors responded with a good deal of skepticism, and if PARD hoped for validation of its desire to close the course, it was not forthcoming. Instead, questions focused on:

Would better management of the course and its operations improve the bottom line? (The answer? Some changes are in the works.)

Does the interfund transfer listed as an expense on Hancock's budget really represent money spent at Han­cock? (No, but we can get those figures.)

Why can't the course use reclaimed water from the line that's been upgraded along Red River, in part for that specific purpose? (Ask Austin Water.)

If bond money is apparently available for the Hancock Recreation Center, could that not improve golf operations as well?

Especially combined with the likely closure of Lions Municipal Golf Course in 2019, this seems like further erosion of central-city services and amenities. (OK, that's not a question, but it was clearly a sentiment circulating in the room.)

There was also considerable venting about why the process has not been more public thus far; several attendees noted that they had no authorization from their neighbors to brainstorm ideas or represent public opinion on policy matters and suggested that if PARD wants public feedback, it should hold public meetings. ("The people who are going to yell at you – you want them to yell at you now, or else they'll yell at you later," as one wag put it.)

PARD staff promised to compile a lot of requested information and come back to the neighborhoods in more public settings – time and place to be determined. One thing everyone did stress was that the Hancock tract will always remain public parkland, no matter what happens to the golf course; as many of the meeting's attendees noted, by City Charter, it takes a public election to sell, loan, trade, or otherwise encumber dedicated parkland.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Hancock Golf Course, Parks and Recreation Department, Kevin Gomillion, Lions Municipal Golf Course

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