It’s not as bad as paving paradise to put up a parking lot, as in that old Joni Mitchell song, but New Orleans’ City Park is taking down 110 trees to make way for a new golf course.
The course has been in the works for a decade but only recently attracted attention and controversy now that land clearing has begun.
The park once was home to four golf courses. Now it has one. The second one — the controversial one — will be a “championship level” course, which puts it in a different class from what City Park has had in the past.
Golf has been part of the park for more than a century. Some may remember when the PGA tournament now known as the Zurich Classic was played at City Park when the event was still called the Greater New Orleans Open.
There’s something to be said for “municipal links,” those public courses around the nation that provided opportunities for people to learn and play golf without having to be a member of a country club or pay high greens fees.
My dad, as much of a working-class Joe you might ever hope to find, somehow got hooked on golf and, with a set of used clubs, spent a lot of time on courses like the ones City Park used to have.
A championship-level course, however, is a different beast. While people who use publicly operated links might be willing to put up with problems like greens that aren’t so green, a higher level of manicure and maintenance is expected at a PGA-level course.
The biggest complaint lately is that the area where the courses used to be reverted to a wild state in the decade since Hurricane Katrina struck and should stay that way. A lawsuit trying to stop the construction makes that very point, accusing the park of violating the National Environmental Policy Act for bulldozing wetlands.
Despite its name, City Park gets its money from the state and from donations and income from the park’s other attractions, such as the kiddie-ride area and venues for weddings and other events. Park officials say the new golf course will be another source of needed revenue.
However, the new course will generate additional costs, too, and I imagine the price of operating and maintaining a PGA course is not cheap.
It’s the malady of our times. Understandably, people are tired of paying so much in taxes. As an alternative, we look to things we normally took for granted, like parks, and try to come up with ways to generate revenue from them instead of increasing taxes to pay for them.
So they offer new services and build new things for more revenue. But new services add operating costs, as well. In the end, they seem to be running faster and faster just to stay in the same place.
Some doubt a PGA-grade course can sustain itself in an era where interest in golf is on the decline. And as the course tries to attract more golfers, it’ll mean more cars driving the streets around and through the park during the daytime.
The park is definitely not a pristine, vehicle-free zone now. It’s packed on spring and summer weekends, and a lot of Delgado Community College students park there during the week.
Jazzfest at the New Orleans Fair Grounds and high school football games at Tad Gormley Stadium also bring more cars in.
The park is being stretched to its limits as a peaceful green space away from the normal everyday bustle. The new course stretches the park even more.
Email Dennis Persica at email@example.com.