A Lake Country delegation will make a final effort to save the Aspen Grove golf course.
Scheduled to appear before the Central Okanagan School District planning and facilities committee Wednesday night, a group led by Richard Issler will make an argument for saving the golf course, which is owned by the school district.
The course was officially closed this fall, with the school district’s intent to build two soccer fields on the site to benefit both the neighbouring George Elliot Secondary and the new middle school school being built beside it.
The new school will be constructed on the location of the existing GSS playing fields, which will be replaced by the new fields.
But Issler will ask the committee to rethink that strategy, saying there is a value in saving the golf course both for the greater benefit of the community and the school district.
Issler argues Aspen Grove has been a central part of Lake Country since it opened in 1979, the rare existence of a nine-hole executive golf centre in the centre of the community that is accessible for use by adults, youth and seniors.
“The holes are shorter than a regular 18-hole course, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to play making it family oriented, and you don’t have to spend five hours playing it,” Issler said.
“You just can’t go anywhere and find a golf course like that…for the cost and time involved to play. It cost $17 to play a round and it takes less than two hours to play. That is unique.”
Issler is suggesting three alternative options for the committee to consider:
*Use existing land adjacent to Swalwell Park, further south on Bottom Wood Lake Road, owned by the municipality to create sports fields as a municipal multi-use facility
*Allow a group of local investors the opportunity to purchase the Swalwell Park vacant land and enter a “land swap” agreement with the school district
* Install two soccer fields but continue operating Aspen Grove as a six-hole course
Issler said in 2014 a group he was part of made a similar pitch to the Lake Country municipal council to save the golf course but it failed to get anywhere. This renewed petition drive effort has collected 700 signatures over a six-week period, he noted.
“That is a clear indication of the level of support for our proposal,” he added.
Moyra Baxter, chair of the Okanagan Board of Education and a committee member, said the intent was always to include playing fields on the Aspen Grove site when the school district acquired the property.
That intent became even more essential when the school district couldn’t get approval from the Agricultural Land Commission to have the golf course site removed from the ALR to permit the construction of the new school.
Baxter said there have been some discussions about creating a multi-use strategy for the playing fields area, citing the example of what the school district and City of West Kelowna have done to expand the sports fields at Constable Neil Bruce Middle School.
“Different ideas have been tossed around as our staff have put a considerable amount of time and effort in the planning for this, but it has never been our intent to operate a golf course,” she said.
She noted the previous course owner had made numerous attempts to sell the course before approaching the school district.
“There are people now apparently interested in having the golf course remain but nobody came forward at the time it was for sale willing to invest in it,” she said.
“But we will hear what (this group) has to say and see what the committee recommends after hearing their presentation.”
The current time frame is for the sports fields to be installed next summer, and breaking ground on construction of the new school to occur in the summer of 2020, with the opening date for the school set for September 2021.
The new school, yet to be named, with accomodate 60 students between Grades 6 to 8. The municipality’s current schools are operating at 125 per cent capacity, with enrolment forecast projections for a shortfall of 368 student spaces by 2025.