This letter is addressed both to the editor and to Robert Becker, president of the board of City Park. I am sending it to the newspaper, as the last time I reached out to City Park for information, my email was simply ignored.
I recently took a walk in Couturie Forest. I noticed that the fence surrounding the construction site of the new golf course comes directly up to the primary trail in the forest. I also noted that the mulch has clearly been removed from that section of trail, reducing it to muddy track.
Perhaps they don’t want people to realize how closely the new golf course is going to intrude on the “Wildlife Area” shown on the park’s master plan.
In that document, the heavy dotted line marking the border of the forest and the golf course masks the fact that there will be virtually no buffer between the course and the primary trail offering public access to the designated wilderness area, no screening to preserve the wilderness characteristics of forest for those using the main trail.
This is simply not acceptable. You can’t designate a wilderness area in a public municipal park and build a golf fairway up to the edge of the primary trail through that area. Either that portion of the course needs to be redesigned to provide a proper buffer, one (re)planted so as to entirely screen the course from the trail. Or the park must relocate the trail further into the forest to preserve its pre-construction characteristics.
Failing either, designating Couturie Forest as a wilderness area is dishonest if it cannot be used as such by the public. It would be as if the park constructed its new golf course without paths for golf carts.
The park should be honest about its current intentions and re-mulch the trail so the public can easily see what is being done. Or they should remove that section from the map of their trail system and be honest that they are effectively taking a significant part of Couturie Forest out of public access in the service of golf.
Anticipating the usual, dishonest response: Golf is not a major revenue source for the park. Golf contributes less than one-tenth of what concessions and other sources do in net income, according to financial reports filed with the state auditor.
Please do not diminish the Couturie Forest to serve a declining sport. The forest is a unique resource in the city and as valid a public purpose as golf or any other.
By doing so, Mr. Becker and his board show exceptionally poor stewardship of one of the nation’s great parks and one of our city’s finest assets.