Vancouver park commissioner Dave Demers wants staff to examine optimal uses of land now set aside for golf courses

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      Some folks are incredibly passionate about using a golf club to whack a small ball around huge swaths of publicly owned land in Vancouver.

      These recreational golfers enjoy the camaraderie, competition, and peace of mind that come from this activity.

      But is this the optimal use of 15 percent of municipally controlled park land in the city?

      Especially when the number of golfers using Langara, Fraserview, and McCleery golf courses has declined by nearly a third since the late 1990s, even as the city's population has risen by 20 percent?

      Green commissioner Dave Demers hopes park board staff can address these questions in what he calls a "deep dive analysis".

      Demers has prepared a motion for the Monday (April 15) meeting seeking commissioners' support to direct staff to evaluate "the full spectrum of realized and unrealized benefits of Park Board land currently used for golf".

      The park board has 187 hectares of land set aside for this sport.

      Green commissioner Dave Demers hopes other park board members support his call for a "deep dive" into the pros and cons of allocating 15 percent of park land for golf.

      The park board operates the three aforementioned 18-hole golf courses, as well as pitch and putt facilities at Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, and Rupert Park.

      Demers's motion seeks commissioners' endorsement for staff to compare past, current, and expected demands for golf—and the requirements to provide this—with the rest of the board's recreational system.

      Demers also wants staff to look at ways of aligning managerial, financial, and planning of golf in conjunction with the rest of the park and recreational system.

      And he hopes that all of this can be occur before the board launches any master-planning process on golf courses.

      If a majority of commissioners support the motion, staff will return to the board with a report to building on recommendations in the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, Biodiversity Strategy, and Urban Forest Strategy.

      The motion calls on the report to also be mindful of Vancouver's Playbook, which is a process that's expected to guide recreational planning over 25 years.

      Watch this Vancouver park board promotional video about the Vancouver Play public-consultation process.

      According to Demers's motion, it costs adults $59 to $67 to play 18 holes during the peak season. In the off-season, adult rates range from $28.25 to $36.50.

      Golf is profitable for the park board, with $9.9 million in revenue forecast this year.  Park board staff have pegged this year's expenditures for golf at $6.6 million.

      Demers's motion acknowledges that $300,000 per year flows into a golf reserve fund, which had $516,000 in unallocated expenditures in March.

      The park board's annual operating expenditures this year are forecast to be $66.5 million.

      Fungicides are only applied to the greens at Langara (above), Fraserview, and McCleery golf courses.
      City of Vancouver

      The board's budget does not include an evaluation of the opportunity cost of allocating a significant amount of its land to one recreational activity.

      "Golf courses require regular grooming (currently by gas-powered machinery), irrigation, and maintenance to provide healthy & resilient playing surfaces (as with all sport playing fields)," the motion states, "and best practices are employed: irrigation water is provided primarily via aquifer or storm water, and fungicides are only applied to golf greens (about 1.5% of the area."