Hundreds of people showed up for an open house at Glendoveer Golf Course last month to tell Metro what they thought of proposed changes for the golf course and tennis facility. In dozens of different ways, they all told Metro pretty much the same thing: keep your hands off Glendoveer; and if you are going to do anything, upgrade the existing amenities and do more maintenance.
The love for Glendoveer was clear from the tone and comments at the meeting that most want the facility to stay as it is, with any changes focused on upgrading and maintaining the facility. Metro claims it heard them and will honor constituents’ requests to do nothing except maintain and improve east Portland’s crown jewel.
The sunny weather did not match the cloudy disposition of the more than 200 mostly white-haired, white-hot angry locals who showed up to rain on Metro’s parade. Rancorous comments by attendees hurled at Metro representatives were fueled by rumors, fear of change, misinformation and, in a few cases, alcohol. The shock on the faces of Metro representatives and councilors was evident when they found they had a tiger by the tail.
Glendoveer Golf Course and Fitness Trail sits on 242 acres in the heart of Mid-county at Northeast 140th Avenue and Glisan Street. The two 18-hole golf courses are ringed by a two-mile fitness trail. The site, owned by regional government Metro, also has a four-court Tennis Center and the Ringside East Steakhouse.
Not everyone in attendance was venting his or her general antipathy towards government. Many in attendance asked reasonable, rational questions.
People’s main concern was an unfounded rumor circulating that low-income housing was slated for development on the property, an option that is not being considered for Glendoveer. One rumor that did prove to be true was, at one point Metro was considering an option that would convert part of the 36-hole course into a park. Due to heavy opposition, Metro dropped that option even before the open house, but that did not stop people from focusing on it, especially west course homeowners whose back yards open to the course area where the park would have been sited.
Glendoveer is long overdue for maintenance and upgrades.
Metro initiated the Glendoveer assessment and business plan project to evaluate the site’s conditions and identify opportunities for improvement. Metro is concerned that the rounds of golf played at Glendoveer has dropped every year since 1997 and is on track this year to be just half of what it was in earlier years.
Metro’s contract with the facility’s operator, Glisan Street Recreation, netted the agency over $840,000 last year — $9.5 million in the last decade — an amount that has been declining as golf revenue drops. But, Metro pays for nothing at Glendoveer except minor maintenance. Revenue collected from Glendoveer goes to Metro’s general fund to pay for maintenance and upgrades at Metro’s other properties. The contract Metro has with GSR expires at the end of 2012.
Whatever decisions are made about the property, the golf course and fitness trail will continue to be the focus at Glendoveer.
GSR owner Joe Hickey, who has been running the Glendoveer golf courses since 1978 said they will participate in the Request for Proposal, and said anybody’s guess is as good as his as to what Metro’s plans are. He understands Metro has to put it up for bid once the contract expires. “We’re just in a wait and see mode ourselves. We’d like to have the opportunity to renew; we think we’ve done a good job here and made it a better place. But that may or may not be how they (Metro) look at us.” Hickey would like to see Metro start a maintenance fund for Glendoveer with a percentage of what he pays them every year dedicated to funding maintenance and repair projects.
Barbara Roberts, who was appointed to fill Robert Liberty’s District 6 seat when he resigned, and whose district encompasses Glendoveer, was, at one point, surrounded by people talking over each other peppering her with their questions, their concerns, their opinions — informed or not — and more than a few rude comments. At one point, trying to show she cared about the area as much as her inquisitors did, the first and only woman to serve as Oregon’s Governor was reduced to shouting resume bullet points back to her attackers. “I was on the Parkrose School Board; I know this area; I lived here for a long time,” she said to those wagging and pointing fingers at her. Asked where she lived now, she replied, “Sellwood,” which served only to aggravate her attackers.
Ron Manza, a recently retired insurance executive who has been playing golf at Glendoveer once or twice a week for over 35 years thinks the courses are well run and said, “Glendoveer is the crown jewel of East County. They (politicians) always talk about how important recreational facilities like this are, so what are they doing? Why aren’t they (Metro) concerned with maintaining and upgrading it? That’s what we want; if they want to really help and be useful like they say they do, they would focus on that.” Like others who live near the course, Manza likes the convenience of Glendoveer. Unlike other courses, he can bring guests to play golf where “reservations are suggested but not required,” easily and on short notice.
Metro heard Manza and hundreds other like him. Lydia Neill, Metro’s property manager for Glendoveer, said, “We realize Glendoveer is important to the community; they want to know we care about the facility like they do; and we do.”
Tennis players also attended the open house in force to oppose turning the facility into an event space and show support for continued use of the tennis courts. Neill said she was surprised and happy to learn about how important the tennis facility is and how it valuable it is to users. “It’s not just four courts for the surrounding neighborhoods; it’s much more than that. We don’t want people to feel that we’re not listening, because we do care and we are listening.”
Since Glendoveer is the only golf facility Metro manages, Neill said she is reaching out to the City of Portland to get information on how they operate their five courses.
At the open house and through written comments they heard how businesses around Glendoveer would be hurt by any changes to the golf course that artificially reduced the number of golfers coming to the area.
Compiled for review by the Metro Council, the feedback from the open house and an update on the project was provided to councilors during the Metro Council work session on Aug. 16.
Not one of the 445 assiduously compiled submitted comments said they wanted a park, low-income housing or wanted Metro to do anything except improve and upgrade the facility.
No decisions were made at the work session, but, because of the overwhelming written, verbal and e-mailed comments and petitions delivered pleading with Metro to keep its hands off Glendoveer, there is little chance they will re-work the west course to make it more competitive to attract a wider variety of tournaments. There is also little to no chance now they will repurpose the tennis center into an event space and electric cart barn either.
But, there are more rounds to come; the RFP process is next. They are looking for ways for the public to have input through some kind of advisory panel. They would like to complete the RFP process by the end of the year to advertise it beginning January 2012. The desired outcome is a fair and competitive method to develop and award a new contract to operate the facility starting in 2013.
The first round of the Glendoveer open is finished. The public judged Metro’s performance below par. if Metro keeps its eye on the ball, hits the next tee shot in the middle of the fairway, sinks easy putts and chases opportunities to win for the public good, the gallery’s jeers will turn to cheers.