Keeping the Gates Open at RedGate
Despite my having lived in Rockville, Maryland, for 15 years, last week was the first time I ever attended a city council meeting. What would drag me out on a cold, dark February night at my normal (admittedly early) bedtime? Golf, of course.
RedGate is Rockville’s only municipal golf course, set in a forest surrounding two 1970s Cold War era reservoirs. Although officially built for flood control, the local mythology is that the reservoirs were built to serve as Washington’s back-up water supply in case of catastrophe. Like most muni courses, RedGate is nothing fancy – the club house is really just a snack bar, and the air is filled with the humble scritch-scritch-scritch sound of fellow trunk slammers shuffling to and from the parking lot in their soft spikes. But the fairways and greens are remarkably well maintained and it’s comfortable playing golf somewhere no one is going to notice the brand of your clubs or demand that you wear a collared shirt in the sweltering Washington summers. As we documented in our January issue, this sort of casual, inclusive course is a vital recruiting ground for the sport if golf is to thrive in the future.
My husband and I have taught our three teenage sons a number of crucial life lessons at RedGate—adults ride in the cart while kids walk, please just pick up your ball and carry it around the lake before we lose them all, and most importantly, life is too short to keep score. And we’ve had our more contemplative moments too, on summer evenings when cool, misty air rolls out of the trees and onto the fairways, bringing along with it the tentative steps of deer. So it was with some alarm that I noticed a brief Facebook post from the golf course announcing the city council meeting to discuss “the future of RedGate.”
Given that the city council recently had to bail out the golf course from a debt of $2.4 million, it wasn’t a complete surprise. RedGate is a microcosm of the budget struggles found in public recreation facilities across the nation, and determining its future path means balancing the need for green space and affordable, healthy outdoor recreation with long-term fiscal sustainability. Fortunately, the city council had earlier contracted with the National Golf Foundation to perform an analysis, which included a suite of well-researched options. In my next blog, I’ll discuss some of these options (including outsourcing management of the course), what the city council and the citizens group called the RedGate Advisory Committee thought of them, and how this all relates to national trends and NRPA’s Golf Coalition.
Parks & Recreation