Residents discuss future of $1.6 million golf course
February 7, 2019
Fifteen residents met to discuss forming a working group for keeping the Valley of the Eagles golf course property in community use after its sale.
Tom Morphet organized the meeting as a private citizen, and focused on owner Stan Jones’ old age “as an asset.”
“I have no polite way to say this, but Stan is alive,” Morphet said. “That is an asset for us because Stan would like it to stay a golf course.”
Jones, 87, and his wife Kathy Pardee-Jones listed the golf course for sale several years ago, asking $1.6 million for 150 acres of land. Jones, who called into the meeting, said that the fate of the property is up to the buyer, and he doesn’t care if it stays a golf course.
“If the mine goes in and they need some acreage in town, there’s lots of property beyond what is the golf course,” he said. Jones said he’s contacted Canadian golf course owners to pitch the sale, but hasn’t heard anything back.
Morphet said the land holds public recreation and wildlife-habitat value. Salmon, bear and moose live in and around Sawmill Creek on the property.
Golfer Toni DeWitt said the golf course can also be viewed as an outlet for mental health. “When my dad was sick, if I didn’t have that golf course to go out and play a few hours a day keeping me sane while I was taking care of him…that was a lifesaver for me,” she said.
Morphet proposed interested participants form an action group to lead the effort in examining different ownership management styles including that of private owners, non-profits or local government.
Meredith Pochardt, executive director of Takshanuk Watershed Council (TWC) said the council’s land adjoins with the golf course. She said TWC would be interested in partnering with other organizations for land management.
The Conservation Fund, a national non-profit aimed at environmental preservation and economic development funded TWC Jones Point purchase in 2015.
Conservation Fund staff said they can’t buy the property, but could help the community acquire it by pointing to funding sources and doing the paperwork, Morphet said.
“They expressed interest in conserving the property, including the golf course, and could front the money if they could be paid back within two years,” Morphet said.
Pochardt said that going through The Conservation Fund would require a deed restriction on the property that would mean future development, like subdivisions, would have to be negotiated.
Other suggestions included allocating sales tax revenue toward purchasing the property or applying for a Rasmuson Foundation grant to help fund the purchase.
Golfer Brad Badger suggested getting in touch with Wrangell’s city-owned golf course to ask about their management operations.
Morphet asked Jones if he would be interested in a 20-year lease agreement with the borough.
“Not really,” Jones said. “At my age, that’s not particularly realistic.”
Morphet said Jones’ age was a reason to move quickly. “I guess our options are to let things ride and see if White Pass or any others come in and buy it, but Stan’s answer to me sounds like it’s not going to be a golf course anymore,” Morphet said. “It get’s back to opportunity and urgency, but I think if we wanted to keep it a golf course, we better do it real quick because we’ve got an 87-year-old guy that is the owner.”
Jones said he would consider accepting payments in quarters if approached by a “good buyer,” like the borough.
There will be an open working group meeting with Morphet and TWC staff at the Takshanuk office Wednesday Feb. 13 at 3:30 p.m.