Metro Council set to decide future of Louisville’s Cherokee golf course – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville

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The debate over the future of Louisville’s nine-hole Cherokee Park golf course will soon come to a head at the Metro Council.

District 8 council member Cassie Chambers Armstrong, a Democrat who represents the Highlands, introduced an ordinance on Monday that would begin the process of turning the course into a parkland. The proposal follows two public meetings on the future of the Cherokee golf course held in April. An online survey was also opened that month, with a majority of 330 respondents supporting the change.

Chambers Armstrong said she had the idea to reinstate the course in Cherokee Park after finding it had been unprofitable for most of the past decade.

“I think some people will look at this prescription and say it’s anti-golf, but I don’t think that’s the case,” she said. “I think it’s about keeping the golf ecosystem healthy for years to come, making sure all of our courses are played and making money.”

Financial records provided by the Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation Department show that the Cherokee Golf Course has lost more than half a million dollars over the past decade. That’s about a third of the $1.6 million loss produced by the city’s 10 public courts since 2011.

Following the public consultation process, Parks and Recreation officials also support the repurposing of the Cherokee Park fairway. In a letter to the Metro Council, acting director Margaret Brosko said 55% supported the plan, with 42% wanting to keep the course running and 3% advocating another option.

Brosko also argued that the underperforming Cherokee facility could be a drag on golf operations in metro Louisville due to shared funding.

“The [city’s] The golf program operates as a business model, so all profits and losses flow back or out of the golf fund,” she said in the letter. “In this configuration, an underperforming course such as Cherokee can negatively impact the entire operation.”

The clubhouse, carriage barn and other facilities at Cherokee need $1.1 million in deferred maintenance, Brosko said, citing engineering estimates.

Chambers Armstrong said her discussions with parks officials also helped her propose to convert the course.

“I think when you have people working with a particular piece of land in a particular area, each saying the public interest is better served by doing this other thing, our job as legislators is to give it a lot of weight and of deference. said Chambers Armstrong.

His draft ordinance is co-sponsored by Metro Board Chairman David James, a Democrat representing District 6, which includes part of the West End and Old Louisville, and District 9 Board Member Bill Hollander. The Hollander District includes the Crescent Hill Golf Course, a similarly styled course less than three miles from Cherokee that might soak up some of those golfers.

The proposal will need to go through the Metro Council’s parks and sustainability committee before it can get a final vote, a process that could take weeks or months. If approved, residents likely won’t see any physical changes for years.

And city officials would be required to start talks with the Olmsted Parks Conservancy about its proposed repurposing of the Cherokee golf course. The Conservancy is a non-profit organization that helps maintain some of Louisville’s largest parks, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 1800s, including Cherokee Park.

The Conservancy submitted a proposal in 2019 that would create a new gateway into Cherokee Park near the intersection of Grinstead Drive and Lexington Road. Although the proposal was intentionally left vague, artist renderings included a boathouse and water activities on the golf course pond as well as a restaurant and patio in what is now the clubhouse. Under Chambers Armstrong’s proposed order, the Conservancy would have to honor the golf course’s history in some way.

It’s unclear how many Metro Council members will support Chambers Armstrong’s proposal, but Democrat Cindi Fowler of District 14 says she plans to fight it.

Fowler introduced a different order last week that would require the city to issue a new request for proposals to see if a third-party group is interested in running the Cherokee golf course. The city currently operates it, since no organization responded to a 2019 call for tenders.

Fowler’s measure would also prevent the city from selecting a nonprofit to run the course.

She said the Cherokee course has a distinct niche within the city’s golf community as a place for those just starting out.

“You have grandparents who want to teach their grandkids to play golf, which takes longer and you don’t want to hold someone back on one of the [bigger courses],” she said. “Then you have a lot of golf teams, high school golf teams, that want to use this course.”

Fowler also said that while the Cherokee Golf Course has lost new money from the past 10 years, it was profitable in 2021. Parks and Recreation officials, however, say that was primarily due to an increase in tee fees, as well as workers whose salaries are not paid from the reallocated golf fund to work on the course.

She said she thinks it’s a slippery slope between closing Cherokee and eliminating all municipal golf courses in Louisville.

“All the courses were in the red except for three of them,” she said. “You go back 10 years and every one of them is losing money, maybe we should shut them all down?”

The Metro Council’s parks and sustainability committee will hold a special meeting on June 7 to discuss Fowler’s proposed order.

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