The future of Langara Golf Course is being contemplated again, after Vancouver Park Board commissioners decided last week to direct staff to examine alternate uses for the 114-acre green space.
They voted 5-2 in support of a motion that was introduced by Green Party commissioner Dave Demers, with Non-Partisan Association commissioners John Coupar and Tricia Barker voting against.
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According to the approved motion, Park Board staff will now “evaluate the full spectrum of realized and unrealized benefits of Park Board land currently used for golf,” and “compare the past, current, and expected demands for, and requirements by golf with those of the rest of our recreational system.”
The resulting findings and options identified by Park Board staff will go through public consultation in 2020, before any new direction for the golf course is considered by commissioners.
During the meeting, Demers further explained the forthcoming analysis would examine the economics and resources directed towards golf courses and the benefits and returns the Park Board sees from operating this particular recreational use.
“Langara for example right now is 100% golf,” he said. “What I’m asking staff is be creative, think outside the box, and look at what we can do there without golf. I’m leaving the entire spectrum open so that when we do consultation, we come up with various options.”
Demers also noted the existing perimeter walking trail around Langara Golf Course is popular in the community, but argued there is an “unrealized benefit” with the kilometres of trails within the golf course that are not used by anyone except golfers.
He suggested low-intensity change examples to the golf course, such as opening up the green space in the low season to walkers, families, and bird watchers. But for more intensive changes, he said the 18-hole configuration could be downsized to a nine-hole executive course to accommodate other recreational uses.
He further argued that the analysis is warranted given that the number of golfers at the three city-owned, 18-hole golf courses has dropped by 6% since 2013 and over 31% since the late 1990s, despite the city’s population increasing by 20%. Langara Golf Couse, in particular, sees less visitation than the Fraserview and McCleery golf courses.
Additionally, suggested Demers, the densification of the Cambie Corridor, with 50,000 new residents moving into redevelopments in the area over the coming years, could see a need for more recreational space.
Coupar deemed the new analysis unnecessary given the Park Board’s previous considerations for alternate uses for its golf courses that ultimately led to decisions to support the status quo, specifically Langara Golf Course.
“This is basically an attack on golf,” said Coupar. “This is setting us down a road we should not go down. We have public golf courses for the same reason we have community centres, so that you don’t have to join the Arbutus Club.”
Barker stated the public golf courses are highly used by seniors for their recreational and social needs.
“Because of the work that I do with the seniors, because of that community and their love of playing golf, I hear about golf courses all the time and the passionate plea of keeping the Park Board’s golf courses where they can afford to play,” she said.
“They are such an important part of this part of the community, it just worries me that if we start directing staff to not enhance it and make it even more accessible for the golfers and the people wanting to play golf, this deals with their social isolation. There are so many benefits to having these golf courses, it greatly concerns me to think that we would be scaling back.”
Aside from the three 18-hole golf courses that have a combined area of 464 acres, accounting for 15% of all city park land, the Park Board also operates three pitch-and-putt courses at Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, and Rupert Park.
The Park Board’s golf operations generate over $9 million in annual revenue, with $300,000 going towards the Golf Reserve Fund and the vast remainder funding the rest of the parks and recreation system.
Last year, then-Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson was unsuccessful with his attempts to persuade the park board to consider other uses for Langara Golf Course.
“We have 114 acres that is almost entirely not accessible to the people of Vancouver unless they’re golfing,” said Robertson during a city council meeting. “It’s great to golfers, but we as a city have more golf holes per capita than any city in Canada right now. We have public golf courses and private golf courses, there’s already a fantastic array of golfing opportunities.”
At the time, Robertson suggested turning the golf course into restored wetlands with trails and ecosystems, sports fields, a track-and-field facility designed to international competition standards, and cricket and kabaddi facilities for the large South Asian population in South Vancouver. City staff were also asked to seek potential partnership opportunities with neighbouring Langara College, Langara YMCA, and the provincial government in relation to the use of their lands immediately adjacent to the golf course.
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