I read Dalora Prather’s letter to the editor “Let’s not fight this fight again, Rolfe” with utter disappointment. I was disappointed because I thought surely Baton Rouge may be able to have a civil debate on the merits of closing City Park golf course while shying away from going negative and personal.
Let’s put history aside for a bit, as I understand the transformation of City Park has been debated many times in the past. I am 30 years old, a now 12-year resident of Baton Rouge and a new father.
I was not involved in the previous debate. Fast forward to 2013. I live in the neighborhood. My wife and I stroll our 7-month-old daughter by City Park regularly and wonder each time we pass what City Park could truly be if it were transformed into a true “central park” for Baton Rouge. Contrary to Prather’s statement and according to BREC, City Park is not a neighborhood park. It is a community park and, as such, it should be utilized for the good of the entire city, not a few (including myself) who live nearby.
BREC operates a number of public golf courses throughout the parish anyone can enjoy at a reasonable price. They are all underutilized and are placing a terrible financial strain on BREC as an organization. As a whole, BREC’s courses are losing money each and every year. Rounds at City Park golf course alone have declined the last four years, from 21,887 in 2009 to 16,335 in 2012. Revenues have fallen each year as well.
Let’s be honest. City Park golf course, at more than 100 acres, serves a handful of residents while the supermajority is forced to enjoy the park from the streets surrounding it, from the outside looking in. It’s time for Baton Rouge to step up and designate a green space for its own “central” park. City Park is that space.
While Prather mocks McCollister as “visionary” of new ideas, I speak for the nearly 700 people who signed an online petition in favor of closing the golf course, when I say we too are visionaries like McCollister. We are a mix of young and old, black and white, male and female. We are students, young and middle-aged parents and grandparents. Collectively, we envision a beautiful green space bordered by the lakes, LSU and the great neighborhoods lining each side of the park.
Times have changed. Baton Rouge has come so far the last 10 years by finally embracing progressive positive change and new ideas. Why stop now? Let’s unleash the incredible potential City Park offers our city! The time has come.