By TED CARTER
A future use of the City of Jackson’s soon-to-close nine-hole Grove Park Golf Course is anyone’s guess, though at least one City Council member is far from confident a viable commercial use can be found for it.
The City Council’s decision to cut another $150,000 from a Parks & Recreation Department budget blindsided Mayor Tony Yarber, spokeswoman Shelia Byrd of the mayor’s office said. The department had already had $1.3 million in cuts during recent work on the new budget that goes into effect Oct.1.
Yarber did not see more cuts coming, Byrd said. Thus, he has not had time to consider alternate uses for the municipal course at 1800 Walter Welch Drive, she added.
The course is situated in the Grove Park community just south of West Northside Drive.
In a statement, Yarber said, “My administration presented a balanced budget that did not include closing a golf course or cutting additional staff at the course.”
He said he wants the council to reconsider. Though the council did not specify closing Gtove Park, taking $150,000 out of a $360,000 allocation for golf course operations sealed the course’s fate.
The Par 36 Grove Park course offers nine holes of golf for $8 weekdays and $10 on weekends. The city’s other course, Sonny Guy Municipal at 3200 Woodrow Wilson Ave., has 18 holes and has the same rates as Grove Park. The Par 72 course opened in 1947.
Councilman Ashby Foote of Ward 1 said between them, the two courses are losing $200,000 a year. He said he wanted one of them closed to slow the losses. The logical one to cut was the nine-hole course,” Foote added.
“I recommended we give one to Jackson State University,” Foote said.
Jackson State has one of the top collegiate golf teams in the region. It did not return a call seeking comment on any interest it may have in taking over Grove Park.
The council gave no indication of what it wants done with the soon-to-be-vacant property. Perhaps, Foote said, Parks and Recreation Director Allan Jones can figure out a way to make the course more efficient “and we can keep it open.”
Payroll is the main expense for the two municipal courses, according to Foote, who said Jones is expected to lose four employees with the cuts.
Jones did not return a phone call and email inquiring about his plans for the course.
Foote said he skeptical any private buyers will surface to propose either taking over the course or converting the land to another use. “I wish it were true,” he said of private sector interest.
And even if a buyer were out there, “I doubt we could get much for it,” added Foote, founder and chief investment officer of Vector Money Management in Ridgeland.
A Jackson commercial real estate broker who was asked to assess possible uses for the property said the city might want to consider a private-public partnership for it, but added he is unsure of the kind project that could be pursued.
“I hope they will at least maintain the condition of the course,” said Scott Overby, principal of the Overby Company, a Jackson real estate firm that is involved in reviving the once-troubled Metrocenter Mall in West Jackson,
Building multi-family housing on the property, or even single-family housing, would be a mistake, he said. The city already has a huge amount of blighted housing, he added, and suggested the city should either tear down or restore that housing before building new homes.
“I think we have plenty of housing stock here that needs to get fixed up,” he said.
But letting an abandoned Grove Park Golf Course deteriorate and become an eyesore will only make a bad problem worse, Overby said.
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