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story.lead_photo.caption Golfers set up to putt on the 16th green at Little Rock’s War Memorial Golf Course in March of 2018. For budget reasons and over the objections of golfers, the city has decided to close the War Memorial course and the one at Hindman Park. The Hindman course will close June 28; the War Memorial course’s last day will be July 4. ( John Sykes Jr.)

The city will cease golf operations at Little Rock's War Memorial and Hindman parks within about two weeks, after Mayor Frank Scott Jr.'s approval Tuesday of recommendations from city staff members.

Based on financial analysis, a study by outside consultants, and the courses' usage and conditions, Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department Director John Eckart recommended that the city "reinvest" in the First Tee and Rebsamen golf courses while repurposing the other two.

Earlier this month, the city board approved nearly $2.1 million in cuts to Little Rock's budget for 2019. The budget amendment included a policy decision to close and repurpose two of the city's four golf courses, which was to be made after analysis by the staff.

The last day of play at Hindman will be June 28, which coincides with the last day of work for employees whose positions were cut. War Memorial's last day will be July 4, to accommodate a scheduled tournament.

Parks department staff members presented "vision plans" of the two parks with colored bubbles indicating areas where new recreation features could be placed: mountain bike trails and a championship disc golf course in Hindman Park; climbing walls and sports fields throughout War Memorial Park.

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Is Little Rock's move to shut golf operations at War Memorial and Hindman parks the right decision?

"This is an opportunity to reinvest, reimagine and recommit to our city," Scott said.

In 2018, the city spent nearly $2.6 million to support four golf courses that made about $1.4 million in revenue, according to numbers provided by the city. City staff members didn't have any estimates on how much it would cost to put in the new features.

"This is a large idea," parks design manager Leland Couch said. "It's hard to start looking at price tags when we don't even know how many ball fields [to be placed at War Memorial]."

A spokesman for Scott said in an email that the "vision plans" were developed only to help residents "conceptualize what is possible," and that nothing is set in stone.

Scott said a community task force will be put in place to brainstorm recreation options to provide a "great quality of life for youth and our seasoned brethren."

He said there would be opportunities for public input, including a poll on social media and a form on the city's website.

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Vision plan for Hindman Park

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B.J. Wyrick, the Ward 7 city director, said she was disappointed by Scott's decision. She said she felt the study, which said that Hindman should be repurposed partly because of the course's tendency to flood, was unfair.

"By doing this arrangement, we're already saying that this ground is stable enough -- it's not in the floodway, we can add these amenities to it," she said.

Since talk of the possible closure of the two courses began to circulate, golfers attended city board meetings in large numbers to advocate for keeping them open. Tuesday was no different.

Scott didn't announce his acceptance of the recommendations until after the public comment portion of the meeting, but some expressed feelings that the city had already decided.

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Vision plan for War Memorial Park

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"I just feel like we've lost so much south of [Interstate] 630 and I live in that area," Paul McDonald said of closing Hindman. "I just feel like, you know, we're not going to play First Tee, and most of the members of my group, we're not going to play Rebsamen either. I'm not sure what to say -- it seems like you have already completely made up your minds to do this."

Ward 2 City Director Ken Richardson offered a similar sentiment that "it seems like the decision's already been made."

Two members of Think Big Little Rock, a group of millennials convened in 2016 to brainstorm strategies to improve the city, spoke in support of repurposing the courses. Turning War Memorial into a central park was among the group's recommendation, co-chairman Amanda Nipper said. Scott was a member of the group when it kicked off.

"Social cohesion increases health outcomes. The relationships that we have with each other in the physical environment have an effect on our daily lives," member Jennifer Hoss said, explaining how such a park could bring people together.

Ward 3 City Director Kathy Webb, whose district includes War Memorial, said she'd like to be involved with the community task force. Lance Hines, who represents Ward 5 on the city board, said he looked forward to working with any interested groups and that he welcomed the change.

To illustrate his point, he quoted a lyric from the song "Once in a Lifetime" by the Talking Heads.

"The lyrics are 'the same as it ever was,'" he said. "I think we could have something that's actually better."

Photo by John Sykes Jr.
FILE — Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott is shown at the state Capitol in Little Rock.

Metro on 06/19/2019

Print Headline: Little Rock picks golf courses at two parks to close

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Archived Comments

  • Testingonetwothree
    June 19, 2019 at 5:42 a.m.

    Was at the park on Rodney parham yesterday with my dog. Grass was ass high. Trash cans filled to overflowing ...limbs. Pallets concrete blocks and tires laying around. This all happened in the last month. I was there a month ago. Why not get companies to sponsor these parks. Like they do areas of the highways. I’d be afraid to go there with kids.

  • LR1955
    June 19, 2019 at 6:52 a.m.

    Which park T123?

  • RBear
    June 19, 2019 at 7 a.m.

    What this now leaves Little Rock with is only ONE municipal golf course along the river and we see what happened to that one after the flooding. Fortunately, First Tee will not be impacted by these closures as they have their own facility. However, when I look at the vision plans for both parks, they do fill some recreational needs that Little Rock is sorely missing. The challenge is that Little Rock will lose some valuable land that is already purposed for golf. I can see War Memorial being repurposed, but Hindman may have been a bit premature.
    ...
    Once you lose it, the cost to bring it back is enormous.

  • MBAIV
    June 19, 2019 at 7:04 a.m.

    I smell another tax hike request cooking at LR city hall. My vote will be against any additional increase - since every time I buy something they are collecting more from me than they did in past years - especially since the 2011 tax increase.

  • Morebeer
    June 19, 2019 at 7:11 a.m.

    Could be any park. City has all but stopped mowing this summer. I recall a decade ago that the city planned a “championship” disc golf course at the former Western Hills golf course. Go see how that turned out. It’s very unfair to say golf courses don’t break even. Does the arts center break even? Alsopp Park? The tennis center? City is closing the golf courses where low-income seniors and working-class folks play, while pouring $30M into a perfectly adequate arts center. Will not support my Ward director or this mayor. Will work to defeat them.

  • reality1963
    June 19, 2019 at 7:20 a.m.

    WM course will become a drug camp. Homeless, addicts, criminals...

  • Morebeer
    June 19, 2019 at 7:31 a.m.

    War Memorial has potential for being repurposed. It’s too visible for the city to let it go to ruin, and politically powerful people reside in nearby Hillcrest. But the air-head millennials are going to find out that the tract is surrounded by four noisy, major roads. May not matter, because they’ll be wearing earbuds and interacting with phones, not nature.

  • NoUserName
    June 19, 2019 at 7:39 a.m.

    Maybe it's just me, but we voted to close 2 courses without knowing which 2 to close and without a firm plan - or cost given that they are being closed due to financial issues - regarding what to do with them. The article also doesn't list revenue/expenses per course which makes it difficult to look critically.

  • RBear
    June 19, 2019 at 7:44 a.m.

    Morebeer I've been in urban parks where there were "noisy, major roads" around them. One of those was Brackenridge Park in San Antonio where a major freeway cuts right through it with far more traffic than I-630. In most cases, they use trees and other sound barriers to cut the noise. You almost feel like you're in an isolated area. BTW, you really call Fair Park noisy?

  • tweedyboy57
    June 19, 2019 at 8:41 a.m.

    The SPLASH Park at War Memorial is a hidden gem - not large but a great place for low income families to take their kids - we take our grandkids there to get much needed fun physical activity

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