Mayor's Pine Ridge water fears all wet

April 18, 1994|By John Steadman

If putting a new golf course at Pine Ridge in any way jeopardizes the water supply, then Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke should issue an order to shut down the existing facility by nightfall and notify all news outlets that a major emergency exists. But relax. There's absolutely no evidence of poison in the drinking water to make it life-threatening.

After all, Pine Ridge has been at its present location since 1958 and not a single illness or death has been attributed to the water's being contaminated by any type of chemical. Baltimore and all surrounding counties served by the enormous Loch Raven watershed system get high marks from analysts for the purity of the product and its taste.

Obviously, what happens on the golf course has nothing to do with the quality of the liquid that pours through your water tap. Mayor Schmoke, unfortunately, erroneously has rejected a plan that would have created a second 18-hole golf course at Pine Ridge, plus a compact three-hole training unit for the disabled to enjoy and a nature trail for children.

The mayor needs to take another look at the project and consider all facts without bias or influence from those with selfish motives. He should then re-open the expansion effort and re-evaluate evidence in the case.

Pine Ridge has the acreage to accommodate another 18 holes in a metropolitan area that is so devoid of golf courses it ranks an appalling 316th out of 321 jurisdictions in the U.S., fifth worst in the nation.

As for golf courses being built adjacent to reservoirs, there's strong precedent for doing so. Golf facilities located next to public water supply sources can be found in Greensboro, N.C.; Burlingame, Calif.; Auburn-Opelika, Ala.; Jamestown, N.C.; Manchester, Conn.; Salt Lake City, Bristol, Conn.; High Point, N.C.; and Manassas, Va., among others.

At none of the aforementioned sites has there been any adverse impact on water conditions.

Henry Miller, who heads the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp., which in 10 years has earned national acclaim, hopes the mayor makes a review of the entire proposal.

Schmoke isn't a golfer so he doesn't understand. The shape of the city's courses was abominable -- something comparable to a dump -- before the outside group was appointed by then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer. Has it been a good deal for Baltimore? Absolutely.

In a letter to city councilman Bill Cunningham, an explanation was provided by Miller, covering a 10-year period, that pointed out the following:

"I calculate we have given directly or indirectly approximately $8 million to the city. Approximately $5 million is in savings from losses that has been experienced by the city in the operation of the golf courses, approximately $2.5 million in capital improvements to the properties and buildings, and, including this year, approximately $700,000 to the activities fund of the Department of Recreation and Parks."

Another course at Pine Ridge, to ease the crowded conditions and the demands for a chance to play, also would create more income.

"We consider our inability to proceed with our expansion plans a loss to the city, its citizens and the golfing public," added Miller.

According to Miller, the president of the Wakefield community organization, identified as Paul Foreman, was concerned over the nature trail and Miller quotes him as saying the residents didn't want "those kids" (city school children) coming to Pine Ridge.

It's obvious Schmoke and Miller have problems. In February, the mayor attempted to cancel the lease with Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp. to end its control of the courses. The record shows this would not have been in the best interest of those involved, certainly not the public course golfers.

Baltimore showed, over a long period of time pre-dating Schmoke's election, that it wasn't capable of maintaining the public courses, including Pine Ridge, Mount Pleasant, Forest Park, Clifton Park and Carroll Park. Ask only one question: Have the conditions progressed or regressed via the competent direction the courses have received?

Not finding a way to put a new course at Pine Ridge, which would utilize approximately 104 of the 510 acres that are there, is a detriment to Baltimore. It's failing to make full use of natural resources -- which belong to the public, including golfers of all ages, gender, racial makeup, religious and political persuasion.

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