Golf Course Improvements A win for everyone

By SCOTT WINEGAR
Los Alamos

Our county’s largest recreational facility and central open space is in need of long-delayed maintenance and upgrades to its infrastructure.

Built in 1947, Los Alamos Golf Course is the county’s largest and most widely used recreation facility. As one of the oldest courses in northern New Mexico, it continues to be a county treasure where friends and family can enjoy the social and medical benefits of outdoor exercise. The appeal of the course is growing as daily rounds are expected to reach 30,000 this year, doubling the 15,000 reached in 2016. In fact, if you include visitors to the clubhouse, restaurant, driving range and golf course, the number should reach 115,000 visits this year; it is staggering how many live in a county of just 19,000 people. Now, after 75 years, the Parks and Recreation Board (P&RB) and the Board will consider how best to deal with aging infrastructure on the course and address range safety issues.

The Council earmarked funds from the PIC in 2017 to complete as many deferred maintenance items as possible and address the driving range safety issue. The first and largest component was the replacement of the 40-year-old irrigation system, which was completed in 2020. The remaining CIP funds of $1.9 million are being used to renovate and improve the aging infrastructure of the courses – tee boxes, sand traps, greens, cart paths, and bad areas. This investment is a much-needed facelift after 75 years of near-daily use where years and mileage have simply worn away the edges of the infrastructure.

A concern that has yet to be resolved is how to modify the driving range so that patrons using the course are safe from shooting bullets. The Board directed staff to hire a golf course architect to review how to extend the driving range and adjust the course to accommodate the longer course. Four options were presented to the P&RB at the July meeting. The P&RB has approved a motion informing Council that it recommends Option A of the four options presented by the Architect.

Reasons for choosing Option A included:

  • the least expensive option at nearly $700,000;
  • less impact on the newly installed irrigation system;
  • impacts the fewest holes on the course;
  • probably the easiest, fastest, cheapest and simplest approach;
  • does not require reshaping and tearing up the existing course;
  • only requires 2 new greens against 4 or 5 for the other options; and
  • guarantees that the parcel of land to be used by one of the holes will not be used for residential homes, thus ensuring that it will always be available for hikers, cyclists, golfers and wildlife.

The concern raised by other interest groups regarding the selection of Option A related to one of the realigned holes located on what is now a parcel of land zoned for residential housing. This stretch of land is crossed by the Walnut Canyon Rim Trail and is forested. The concern includes how the trail will be impacted and how many trees would be removed from the parcel of land to accommodate the hole.

The architect estimated that the new hole would require approximately 5 acres of the 30-acre parcel of land (~16%), 135 trees would be removed, and approximately 300 meters of trail would need to be moved approximately 20 meters.

The Option A plan would provide:

  • all felled trees would be replaced elsewhere at a ratio of 1:1;
  • the section of trail affected would be moved and improved; and
  • the parcel of land would be rezoned from Residential (PD-5) to Terre Publique (PL) ensuring that golfers, hikers, cyclists and wildlife can still use this parcel of land.

The P&RB made a good choice in advising the Board to move forward with Option A to expand autonomy. Not only is it the least expensive option presented, but it is also the easiest and fastest to implement as it has the smallest scope of work and strikes a good balance between the interests of golf, pathways and open spaces ensuring that the land will be available for all to use in the future.

It seems that adjusting 300 meters of trail and moving 135 trees is an acceptable cost that will allow hikers, cyclists, golfers and wildlife to share and enjoy what will be public land forever. The trees will be moved and the trail will still be there, improved and with a new stunning view. Golfers will appreciate the extended range and realigned holes. Citizens will save $700,000 compared to other options

Option A strikes a good balance between scope of work, cost, safety improvements, realignment of the golf course and the interests of county residents. All of our county’s assets make Los Alamos a special place to live. Whether it’s biking, hiking, swimming, skating, skiing, tennis, baseball, soccer, rodeo, open spaces, archery, etc., it’s is what makes Los Alamos a great place to live, work and raise a family. We can share 30 acres of land for everyone’s benefit.

The P&RB is a volunteer board, and they made a well-informed decision that balances the county’s varied interests among outdoor enthusiasts. They were presented with four options and selected the option that offered the best value and the best balance of common interest. The County Council and the citizens of Los Alamos are fortunate to have interested volunteers who volunteer their time and take an interest in our county’s common resources.