Willowdale residents push plan to save golf course

Waging membership campaign to reach $18K month goal

When nearly 200 people attended a neighborhood meeting two weeks ago, Kristen Gilbert said most agreed on a plan they hope could save the financially failing Grand Ridge golf course in Luling.

Without a substantial boost in membership, Gilbert said the 18-hole golf course will go broke in 30 days. If the campaign to save the club fails, it will have to consider offers from two developers who want to build homes on the acreage.

Two options were on the table – grow golf memberships or go along with the Keep Willowdale Green group’s Facebook campaign to re-purpose the course as a green space.As campaign organizer, Gilbert said they are successfully pursuing a compromise plan with both golf course and community use.

“We ended up not even considering the park green space option. We’re working with the group as a second option because it has a lot of legal issues and red tape before we can say it’s a viable option yet,” Gilbert said. “We’d love to maintain the course for as long as we can.”

She added that they will work with the green space option only if keeping the golf course fails.

Residents have been given commitment cards that allow a $150 month golf membership or community membership at $60 a month that includes limited golfing but added use of the club’s facilities such as fishing ponds, tennis courts and driving range, as well as several ideas in the works for expanded use.  She added club grounds would also be available for cookouts and holiday events, as well as a possible place for teens to hang out during the day or weekends.

“We’re going to make it a more friendly place to be – whether you’re a golfer or not.”

Gilbert said they’ve already reached two-thirds of their goal – $18,000 a month – to keep the course running. She added that the golf course is in great condition, too.“We feel if we earn the community’s trust, we can sustain the course,” she said. “We’ve just got to get over this hurdle first.”

With her phone ringing and texting off the hook, Gilbert is hopeful.

Waging a social media campaign also is helping continue to draw membership forms from the area, which Gilbert said includes Willowdale, Willowridge and Davis Plantation subdivisions.

“We had a giant response the night of the meeting and, ever since, memberships have been steadily coming in,” she said. “If we have to, we’ll go door to door. We have people in the community who have offered to ask their neighbors ‘Why aren’t you safeguarding all this for all of us?’”

Gilbert said she doesn’t begrudge anyone who wants to develop the area for residential housing, but it would be sad to lose such a long-standing treasure in the community.

Although developers proposed to maintain at least half of the course, she said she couldn’t see how that would work affordably.

“We got basically 30 days before funds set aside for the course run out,” she said. “And then, [21] investors will have to consider options to avoid bankruptcy, which could include selling to developers.”

Gilbert said time is running out on saving the golf course, but she hopes its more aesthetic and historic appeal will help them save a natural treasure.

“We just hope enough of the community steps up and really protects their backyard,” she said. “There are giant oaks hundreds of years old and old cypress trees there – it’s a beautiful place.”

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