The underused Howell Community Park Golf Course could soon be replaced with a lake to canoe or fish in, an amphitheater and event stage, a tournament-style track or a variety of other options depending on the results of a survey parkgoers filled out Tuesday.
BREC invited the community to weigh in Tuesday on what should replace the Howell Golf Course, which the agency will close after a National Golf Foundation study suggested it was one of BREC’s lowest-performing golf courses. The plethora of possibilities for its replacement appealed to both parents and their children, as they studied posters showing different concepts for the future of the park located on Winbourne Avenue at East Brookstown Drive.
BREC broke the possible park plans into four themes: an athletics theme with a tournament-grade track and field facility; an active recreation theme with an expanded playground and basketball courts; a lake and performance theme with event stages and a boat house on a lake; and a nature theme with a creek and walking paths.
The kids overwhelmingly said they want a boat house, a challenge course that’s similar to a ropes course and a dog park in place of the golf course. For the adults, amenities like a community garden and a farmer’s market stood out.
Ashley Simpson, who brings her five children to the park twice a week, said she is especially hoping for a community garden.
“For the kids to be able to do that hands-on, it teaches good life skills,” she said.
Antonio Simmons brings his two children to Howell Park a few times a month but said he would go to the park more often if he likes the new additions. He prefers the nature theme and said he likes to take his kids to the soothing atmosphere of the LSU lakes. He said he wishes Howell could have similar features.
“There’s nothing like that on this side of town,” he said.
Darlene Taylor said she is hoping most of the new additions are geared toward younger children. She brings her 7-year-old grandson to the park every day for camp and swimming lessons, and she walks in the meantime.
While she said she would enjoy more walking space for herself, she would rather more basketball courts and baseball fields where her grandson could play. Some of BREC’s plans include adding lighted multi-purpose fields.
The National Golf Foundation study released late last year says BREC is stretching itself too thin by trying to maintain too many golf courses. The study notes that Howell was one of the lowest-performing golf courses, though the park itself attracted many visitors.
BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said Tuesday she likes a mix-and-match of the possibilities, but one of her first priorities is renovating the park’s gym. She said she wants to take advantage of the many acres of space that closing the golf course frees up.
BREC officials have said repeatedly they will not close the golf course until they have something else to replace it.
It will still be a long time before the golf course takes on its new identity. BREC officials will compile the public input from Tuesday and then create a master plan for the park they will bring back to residents. Once residents review the plan, BREC will start the process of having contractors bid on the work and breaking ground.
Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.