It's not just Crow Wing County's golfers who have a stake in the future of Pine Meadows Golf Course in Baxter. Saving Pine Meadows would be a plus for the entire county.
The golf course, with a history that goes back decades, predates many of its more luxurious and expensive counterparts that are found in the Gull Lake area. When it was started Pine Meadows was considered to be out in the country. Now the course is a tranquil island of green space surrounded by huge retail shops, motels and restaurants. It's nestled in next to the Paul Bunyan Trail and the North Country Arboretum, providing county residents a small respite from the increasingly urbanized, concrete-covered center this area has become.
While citizens have every right to ask pointed questions about government getting into the golf business, there are certainly models of successful municipal courses that provide green space and recreation opportunities for people who might not be able to afford high-buck golf courses.
The county board should crunch the numbers to make sure this is a feasible plan, but it seems that a county-owned golf course, purchased with low-interest loans, could generate enough revenue to pay seasonal staff and maintenance. The location makes it a natural for after-work golf leagues. As a public-owned golf course it wouldn't be subject to property taxes. Basically, all the operation would have to do is break even after salaries and maintenance expenses are paid.
Some have suggested partnering with Central Lakes College with a groundskeeping course that would employ students who'd like to learn more about that profession.
To let this area become over-developed with buildings and parking lots would add to the drainage problems that are already plaguing parts of the arboretum.
If the county can negotiate a reasonable purchase there is definitely a niche for Pine Meadows in the Brainerd lakes area golf market. The county board is scheduled to consider this issue on Tuesday. Commissioners should give the matter serious consideration, keeping in mind that once Pine Meadows is sold for commercial or residential development the county will have lost this opportunity to benefit citizens forever.
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