Golfers teed off Monday night – but not at their local golf course.
Instead, two dozen speakers and countless other supporters attended a heated Vancouver Park Board meeting where commissioners voted 4 to 2, with one abstaining, in favor of passing Commissioner Aaron Jasper’s motion regarding the future of the Langara Golf Course, including an amendment that the report would not include any suggestion of future residential development.
Last week, Jasper spoke to The Province about the possibility of downsizing the Langara Golf Course from 18 holes to nine, freeing up the rest of the land for public park space. Another option discussed was to redirect golfers to the city’s two other public courses, and repurpose the entire Langara course into public park space – a move estimated by park board staff to cost $15 million.
Monday’s motion would initiate a fact-finding mission into the usage and revenue of the city’s three golf courses. Results, expected this fall, will direct the board’s decisions regarding the 48-hectare green space in South Vancouver.
“We recognize that our golf courses are an integral part of our system but we also need to be mindful of the costs,” said Jasper Monday, noting the city’s three golf courses cost about $10 million to operate and bring in $1 million in annual revenue.
While many speakers raised concerns the motion would pave the way for future development and questioned motives, Jasper reiterated the motion was simply to gather data on which to build future decisions.
“I hope we can all agree that any discussion … should be based on facts,” he said.
CUPE 15 president Paul Faoro, whose union represents some 2,000 parks and city golf course staff, was first to speak Monday night. Faoro, while in favor of Jasper’s motion to gather data, was clear in stating the city’s golf courses should remain as such.
Other speakers echoed Faoro’s comments. Speaker Ray Dujardin calling the possibility of developing or downsizing the Langara course “one of the most ill-conceived ideas the city has come up with in recent years.”
Following the speakers, park commissioners took their turn to debate the motion.
“Langara is not for sale. Period,” said Commissioner Trevor Loke in response to speakers’ fears the land could be sold for development. Commissioner Constance Barnes also pushed for an amendment to the motion that would axe any future possibility of the land being sold.
Commissioner John Coupar, however, blasted Jasper’s motion, calling it “foolish and ill-conceived.” Commissioner Melissa De Genova also spoke strongly against the motion, citing “hundreds” of concerned individuals who had emailed her prior to Monday’s meeting.
Mayor Gregor Robertson has also previously said he’s open to ideas to transform the city-owned space, possibly to increase public housing. He’s since declined to comment on the motion since it was still before the park board.
According to local golfers, the city’s three courses – Langara, McCleery and Fraserview – are among the best in the province, and allow golfers to tee off for less than half the average price at privately owned courses. Other golfers Monday night also praised the Langara Golf Course for its accessibility and proximity to public transit.
Jasper has said any decisions made regarding the future of the Langara course won’t take effect for at least five years.