Reviews continue to be collected on Rochester golf courses

Oct. 21—ROCHESTER — Time is running out to take part in a poll on the future of municipal golf in Rochester.

A telephone survey of 500 randomly selected households began last month to provide a specific sample of opinions, and anyone who has not received a call can weigh in on a

online survey

.

The survey, available at

polco.us/n/res/vote/rochester-mn/municipal-golf-sustainable

ends Wednesday, Oct. 26, to allow city staff to prepare a review of the results for the Rochester Park Board meeting on Nov. 1.

As residents share their views, the city’s candidates for the Nov. 8 ballot offered a variety of opinions on the future of golf.

Although the mayor does not have a direct vote on the matter, the status of the Soldiers Field golf course

became a campaign issue

when a leaflet prepared by challenger Britt Noser’s campaign falsely stated that incumbent Mayor Kim Norton would support scrapping the course.

Norton has repeatedly expressed support for maintaining 18 holes of golf on the downtown Rochester course and convened a group of local golfers earlier this year to discuss the issue, resulting in a report suggesting the city to put an end to any discussion of the removal of a golf course.

Noser released revised campaign materials on Thursday to state that Norton “will not protect the Soldiers Field golf course” and said he believed any changes to the existing course would be detrimental.

As of Thursday evening, the unmodified claims continued to be posted on Noser’s personal and campaign Facebook sites.

Contrary to Noser’s revised assertion, Norton continues to say that it will strive to limit any changes to the golf course, but noted that minimal changes that do not impact the value of the course could be needed as the city seeks to incorporate an expanded aquatics center into Soldiers’ Field Park.

Regarding golf in general, she said: “With baby boomers continuing to retire, I suspect regular use of our courses for some time to come.”

Many council candidates also pointed to the anticipated need for golf courses to meet future needs, but also mentioned the need to strike a balance, especially if usage declines.

“It would be negligent of the city to just ignore usage and just pump more money into golf,” said Ward 1 incumbent Patrick Keane, adding that he foresees the sport growing. and that the potential for increased fees could keep the city courts going.

His challenger, Andy Hemenway, said he doesn’t play golf, but sees benefit in offering lessons to promote personal health and active lifestyles. He said any study indicating a change in direction should also provide an alternative use.

“An alternative use of a currently functional area (could be found) while increasing the use of the remaining three courses,” he said, noting that he would oppose changes that disrupt the integrity of the Soldiers Field golf course.

In the Ward 3 race, the two candidates seeking to replace Nick Campion on the council expressed differing views.

Norman Wahl said the number of courses should be determined by usage.

“If it can be shown that Rochester’s courses are consistently underused, including weekends, it would make sense to reduce the number of them, but not Soldiers Field, which provides green space downtown. and is accessible to all levels of golfer, including senior citizens walking the course for recreation and exercise,” he said, noting potential support for increased fees to address the expenses.

Vangie Casto said she would like to see a reduction in fees to encourage greater use of city facilities, especially for younger users and those on limited incomes.

“I would rather encourage participation than think that because golf doesn’t make money, we should cut the number of holes at Soldiers Field and provide more green space,” she said, adding that ‘As a golfer, she has seen the increasing use of city courses and understands their importance.

Ward 5 incumbent Shaun Palmer said he supports keeping the golf course and improving facilities, but the city needs to keep tabs on how tax revenue is used.

“The real problem is that we have underfunded the parks department, and the parks department has not listened to the citizens of Rochester,” he said.

His challenger, Saida Omar, said she supported finding a way to optimize golf in the city and continue to assess future use, but also pointed to other needs.

“As part of the Rochester community, we know we need a multi-purpose sports complex and a community center,” she said, citing a desire to engage in community discussions about needs.

The Rochester Park Board is expected to consider community feedback, including survey results, at its Nov. 1 meeting.

Rochester Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said a staff recommendation should be part of the discussion, with council possibly making a recommendation to Rochester City Council.

The board is expected to hear an update on golf at its Nov. 21 study session, but would not be able to make a final decision until an upcoming meeting.

Michael C. Ford