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Soldotna hears from residents on Birch Ridge golf course

Posted: March 27, 2014 - 9:56pm  |  Updated: March 27, 2014 - 9:58pm

Soldotna City Council postponed voting on an ordinance that would prohibit synthetic drugs, including spice and bath salts, at the public meeting on Wednesday.

Since it was introduced at last month’s meeting, the state Legislature has proposed a bill that would make the drugs illegal statewide, said City Manager Mark Dixson. 

The Council agreed to wait until the next meeting and hear whether the bill passes in the Senate and House of Representatives.

However, before getting down to the action items, the council listened to an unusually lengthy period of public commentary from a group of avid residents, whose size exceeded the rooms’ maximum occupancy.

Headed by Patrick Cowan, owner of the Birch Ridge Golf Course, the speakers ranged in age from 12 to 81, each imploring the city to purchase the course property.

Cowan said he is looking to retire, with his seventy-fifth birthday coming up in June. Before that happens he will do everything he can to ensure Birch Ridge will remain a golf course, he said.

“Me and my wife put our heart and soul into this for the last 26 years,” Cowan said. He has seen 1,600 introduced to the sport at his course in the last two decades.

Birch Ridge puts money back into the community, Cowan said. He was able to donate $45,000 to organizations across the Kenai Peninsula in 2013. Players come from as far as Sterling and Ridgeway to Funny River and Kasilof every year, which means more revenue for local business, he said.

It also acts as a social hub for many community members, Cowan said. The Kenai Peninsula is one of the fastest growing areas for seniors, he said. Additionally, with restrictions on recreational fishing, locals and tourists will be looking for other activities to spend their time, he said.

Anika Richards, the reigning Alaska Girls State Champion for her age group was in the audience. The Birch Ridge Golf Association received the “2012 Don Springer Award”, recognizing it as the top-ranked Hook-a-Kid-on-Golf course in the nation.

“I beg you to accept the plan, it is an already developed asset,” Executive Director at Alaska Golf Association Jeff Barnhart said. “It is an almost irreplaceable asset to your community.” Barnhart drove from Anchorage to speak at the meeting.

The City of Soldotna had considered and turned down the possibility of buying Birch Ridge in 2008. This time around, Cowan proposed the possibility of the city buying the property and leasing managerial duties to a private contractor.

Soldotna Mayor Nels Anderson said he defined it as a “quality of living issue,” and was personally in support of purchasing the property, but cannot cast a vote toward it.

Anderson said, the council has a number of options to consider. The city could vote to purchase, pass the issue along to the public, or see what would happen if it was purchased privately.

“You have to understand I understand where you are,” Anderson said to the council. The city has a number of trails planned for development that would cut through Birch Ridge and if it were sold off it would be a problem, he said.

At the end of the meeting Dixson said while he is in favor of maintaining recreational opportunities on the Peninsula, “at some point the city of Soldotna can’t be saviors for everyone.”

During council commentary almost every member personally thanked those who turned out for the meeting to voice their opinions.

Council member Keith Baxter said it is uncommon to see such a courteous, organized, well-spoken group at a meeting.

Kelly Sullivan can be reached at

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Suss 03/28/14 - 07:56 am
Soldotna, buy me a Bowling Alley

Why not have the City of Soldotna buy/build a bowling alley? They could lease it out and we would improve the community. Think of all the league players from all over the State coming to Soldotna.

Why not indoor tennis courts, that would be good for the City of Soldotna to own?

Why not buy/build a really large indoor shooting range suitable for rifle matches?

Why not buy/build an indoor multiple Olympic sized swimming pools?

Why not buy/build a 10,000 seat indoor multi-event stadium?

These are just a few of the wants, wishes or dreams that the City of Soldotna could spend taxpayer money on.

Maybe buying up a dozen or so riverfront lodges to preserve them because their current owners want to retire?

There is no limit to spending for your taxpayer funded dreams!

nolanrose 03/28/14 - 08:16 am

It's important to note that Birch Ridge Golf Course hosts and directs fundraising events organized by groups like the Pink Ribbon Rally, Seward Seahawks Booster Club, Soldotna Elks, etc...

Those events raise a significant amount of monies which are put back into our community. The Golf Course itself contributes to the total presented in this article but is not responsible for the entire sum. We are very proud to be associated with these groups and others like them that have held fundraising events at Birch Ridge Golf Course.

Nolan Rose
General Manager
Birch Ridge GC

borninak 03/28/14 - 04:27 pm
Lighten Up Suss!

Lighten Up Suss! Its not such a bad idea for a city to own a golf course. It could be a good investment. I'm not even a golfer but when I roll into a town and see they have a nice green sprawling golf course, I'm impressed. It's a great community asset. It would be a shame to see it go by the way of a housing development. And how about that 10,000 seat, multi event, indoor stadium. What a great idea!

travy25 03/28/14 - 04:39 pm
Dixson just doesn't get it

Nobody is asking to be "saved" here. It's a sustainable resource and a wise calculated risk, period. If Dixson can't understand how important this facility is to our community then the transient needs to be sent back to New York. I'll pack his bags and buy his ticket.

Norseman 03/28/14 - 04:51 pm
This would be a wise

This would be a wise investment for the city. Golf isn't going away as a sport and it's the only show in town:)

Suss 03/28/14 - 06:23 pm
Funny River Golf

There are other options for golf that do not require taxpayer funding. When you spend your life wanting less government, lower taxes and then you want government to buy you out because it is good for you, costly to the public, I say play golf at the Bird Homestead , and save the taxpayer the bill!

Good Time Charlie's is a world renowned strip club, let the City buy that business to keep the tourists coming.

If I wanted my legacy to continue, be preserved for all to enjoy, there are ways to gift the property to ensure that my desires are met. If I wanted to sell my property I would find the right realtor to make the sale, of course that would not involve asking government for a bailout, exit plan.

My ak2cents
My ak2cents 03/28/14 - 06:55 pm
Id like to reiterate that

Id like to reiterate that this is not a bail out. This is not the government meddling in private enterprise. This is the government acquiring a valuable piece of land and subsequently leasing that land to a private business. It's a great opportunity for the city to acquire an extremely valuable piece of already developed property without any financial responsibility after the purchase. The city will be making money back starting day 1 in the form of lease payments and taxes the business pays back to the city. This not about somebody's retirement- they will retire no matter what- it's about the future of what will happen to that land and maintaining the quality of life enjoyed by the city of Soldotna.

travy25 03/28/14 - 07:30 pm

Yeah.... because the funny river course shares the same accessability, course conditions, playability and curb appeal. No offense, but let's not pretend the two are remotely equal and that BRGC is easily replaceable. Thanks, but you've discredited yourself entirely at this point.

Suss 03/29/14 - 01:54 am
Profit and Loss; Then call for the Public Vote

Ten years of tax records, showing how lucrative this business entity has been. Let an independent CPA bean counter crunch the numbers, publish the findings, results and projected costs. Along with the leasehold plan that shows how profitable this would be for the City. Call for an advisory ballot measure vote with a breakdown of the financial review and only then would the tax paying voters be able to make an informed decision on the property purchase. Projected costs would include all full and part time employees salaries and needed equipment and supplies. There is no turnkey free operation for any business. liabilities for the property owner would still exist even, or more so when the property is leased. Insurance has its limits. Medical costs seem to have no limits.

Show the public all the facts, financials and let us vote.

Didn't the City spend thirty thousand dollars ($30,000.00) on a study of this purchase five years ago?

Show us the numbers!!!

If this is such a good deal why would anyone have to ask the City to buy when there should be investors jumping at the profitable opportunity. Where are all the smart money players?

leewaytooo 03/29/14 - 03:56 am
first they tried to bail out

first they tried to bail out hutchings, the public said no.

now they want to bail out birch ridge owners that want to


golf is expensive and only those few that can afford it, play it.

put it to a vote of the people during the fall voting and if

it passes then that is that..........

Offcenter 03/29/14 - 01:53 pm
copy editor?

Well, I certainly hope that the council doesn't have any synthetic drugs at the meeting. What have I been missing?!

cheapersmokes 04/01/14 - 05:29 am
Birch Ridge

Golf courses are a very expensive investment due to the cost of the large plot of land required, club house, landscaping and maintenance equipment needed. A fully functioning course could be a great investment for the community if a purchase price could be reasonably determined. It will bring in many dollars from players if they run some tournaments who will also spend money in the local businesses. Get an appraisal of the property and ask the community on ways to make it more profitable like year round bar and food service.

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