Pine Ridge II lands in trap of politics and personalities

April 29, 1994|By John Steadman

Creation of a second golf course at the Loch Raven Reservoir has been shot down. Presumably, the effort is history unless the idea is revived by an independent committee. Politics played a role and so did the personalities involved. That's unfortunate.

A side issue in the scenario is whether the leaders of Baltimore County made a "neighborly" request to their counterparts in Baltimore City to refrain from issuing the approval that was needed before work could proceed.

The Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp., which wanted to build another 18 holes at Pine Ridge, hoped to utilize 104 of the 510 acres that border the watershed for golf expansion. Mayor Kurt Schmoke rejected the idea because a review committee he appointed decided the proposal was not environmentally prudent.

The Wakefield Improvement Association, whose members live in proximity to the Pine Ridge facility, ruled against the project by the resounding tally of 28 to 4. However, the president, Paul Foreman, abstained from voting because of a desire, he said, to remain neutral.

"I wanted to present the facts and for everybody to be informed," Foreman explained. "Personally, I don't object to golf. Point A is I like golf and point B is golf courses are pretty. Putting additional holes at Pine Ridge would not contaminate the water system. But it certainly wouldn't help it."

Foreman takes exception and denies he ever told Henry Miller, chairman of the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp., that the residents didn't want "those kids" (city school children) coming to Pine Ridge to visit a nature trail that also was included, along with a three-hole course for handicapped golfers.

"I never said that," insisted Foreman. "I can't understand how Mr. Miller could make such a comment. I tried to treat him with gentlemanly respect. His remark made the neighbors look like we were idiots."

Before Schmoke stymied the plan, a feasibility review, costing an estimated $300,000 and commissioned by the Municipal Golf Corp., was conducted by KCI Technologies Inc. This resulted in a near 1,000-page report, which concluded:

"In summary, this project has been shown to be environmentally feasible provided proper design, construction and course management techniques are followed. Furthermore, the benefits that the proposed expansion could provide include another 18-hole golf course, three-hole training facility for disabled individuals and an educational nature trail. These benefits would be realized, while protecting the site's natural resources, by adhering to the environmental resource protection measures and incorporating the mitigation measures described in this study."

Foreman said "only about 50 percent of the Wakefield community" was present to vote on the measure but believes the 28-to-4 margin accurately reflects how the entire neighborhood regarded the Pine Ridge effort. He was asked why, in his opinion, the plan failed.

"The city, technically, is a land owner in Baltimore County," Foreman answered. "It must abide by county rules, plus the concerns of the neighborhood. Roger Hayden [executive of Baltimore County] told me he would have sued the city of Baltimore if it failed to go through the county process."

The record shows Miller and the Municipal Golf Corp., have produced a remarkable performance since taking over operation of the city's five public courses. There's no comparison to "then" and "now." Courses at Pine Ridge, Forest Park, Mount Pleasant, Clifton Park and Carroll Park have been upgraded. The money golfers spend on fees goes back into maintenance and improvements rather than being returned to the general operating fund of the city.

This is as it should be. The golfers are now paying for the privilege of playing on first-rate facilities, as opposed to the way they looked before the former mayor, William Donald Schaefer, reacted to the poor conditions and took action. Schaefer formed a nonprofit agency to take the responsibility away from the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Foreman emphasized he held no bias against the golf corporation and gave it high marks, especially its video presentation, in trying to prove why it should be allowed to make the additions. At the same time, he also applauds Schmoke for the position he has taken.

Meanwhile, to prove the Wakefield Improvement Association isn't anti-golf, Foreman says it will be holding a golf outing . . . at Pine Ridge in July.

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