Soldotna may not have a city cemetery yet, but residents waiting for a final resting place may one day be able to get in nine holes at a municipal golf course while they wait.
The city council Wednesday evening gave the OK for City Manager Tom Boedeker to have Birch Ridge Golf Course evaluated for its acquisition potential.
About 30 golf enthusiasts and Birch Ridge neighbors showed up to express their support for a possible purchase of the golf course by the city.
In its resolution authorizing Boedeker to have the National Golf Foundation evaluate the links along the Sterling Highway, the council made it clear that no decision had been made concerning the golf course beyond having it evaluated.
According to Pat Cowan, who owns Birch Ridge with his wife, Myrna, the future of the golf course entered the public arena after the Cowans subdivided three lots on the back of the course, which is in an area zoned rural residential.
“The community thought we were going to subdivide the whole golf course. That’s not the case,” Cowan told the council.
“As long as Myrna and I are healthy ... we plan to operate the golf course as long as we can,” he said.
He also said he could not predict what their children would do with the property in the future, however, and said the city came to him asking if the Cowans were interested in selling the golf course to the city, guaranteeing it would remain a golf course.
In a letter addressed to “Fellow Golfers,” Cowan said he and his wife told the city they were interested, adding that Pat is 66 years old and “certainly would like to entertain the possibility of retiring someday.”
The National Golf Foundation, a Florida-based consultant, would provide a market analysis and financial feasibility study to determine the viability of Birch Ridge being successfully operated as a municipal golf course.
The study would include a five-year projection of cash flow, identify the optimal operating model for the acquired golf course, identify its primary competitors and help determine who will play at a municipal golf course and how often they will play.
Boedeker said the study is not an appraisal of the golf course to obtain a dollar value.
“It deals with the equipment, the management structure, a performance analysis,” he said.
Testifying in support of a possible purchase by the city, Linda Murphy said the reason she and her husband chose to move to a location within the city of Soldotna was the golf course.
Patrick O’Neill said, “In order for Soldotna to continue to grow, we need a golf course.
“People need activities and golf happens to be a number-one activity,” O’Neill said.
Some of the golf course supporters said Birch Ridge provides a great opportunity for youth, teaching them morals, values and etiquette, as well as skills.
Council member Jane Stein added that many nonprofit organizations in the Soldotna area “have made a lot of money” by conducting fundraising events at Birch Ridge.
The sole opponent to the analysis agreement was council member Ed Sleater.
“It seems to be a foregone conclusion that if we don’t buy this golf course it’s going away. I don’t see it that way,” Sleater said.
He said that the city is seeking revenue sharing money from the state Legislature, faces a funding deficit for its public employee retirement obligation and has delayed public improvement projects because of the budget. Now it is thinking of buying a golf course.
“I oppose it,” Sleater said.
As the 30 proponents exited the council chamber following the vote, one person said, “Maybe we could bury our dead in the rough.”
“We’ve thought of that,” said council member Lisa Parker with a laugh.
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