Park proposal for former city golf course prevails despite objections from players

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London golfers are considering the proposal to convert a huge chunk of a former East End municipal golf course into a park.

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But City Hall‘s direction for the former River Road golf course — including plans to explore the sale of about 15 percent of the property for future industrial or residential developments and keep the rest for green space — remains unchanged after a council committee on Tuesday approved a Reviewed employee report.

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City politicians quizzed bureaucrats during the Community and Conservation Services Committee about a future sale, the potential for new housing on the site and the condition of the golf course equipment, while golfers looked on from the public gallery.

We are essentially backcomending further study toward highest and best use (of the land),” City Hall Real Estate Chief Bill Warner told the committee.

These studies will be conducted before the City Council makes a decision to sell portions of the site in the next term. The report by the city staff on Tuesday served only as information for politicians. The Council is not asked to make a decision based on the current plans.

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A handful of golfers wrote letters to the city council criticizing the decision to close the course or questioning future plans.

London’s city golf courses operate on a ‘golf pays for golf’ system, with user fees and other revenue covering costs. Two more are still in operation.

“Millions of potential revenue for the municipal golf reserve fund have been lost,” Stuart Watson wrote to politicians, saying the course had a lot of potential to generate money for the city treasury.

Another golfer, Angus Johnson, urged City Hall to seek ideas for the land from area residents.

District 1 Municipality Michael van Holst, who represents the area, asked if homes could be built on the 54-acre site.

“It would not be a very good place and location for housing,” Warner said of an analysis by the municipal housing team.

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Much of the land is unsuitable for development due to wetlands and forests.

Staff recommend a large “neighborhood park,” similar to Springbank or Gibbons Parks, as well as biking and walking trails.

The River Road clubhouse burned down in November 2021 and the rubble was later demolished. Arson charges against a former city worker were later dropped.

City Treasurer Anna Lisa Barbon said any remaining equipment, such as the irrigation system, would be used on other city courses.

Van Holst also asked for more information about the future of London’s city-owned golf system. River Road lost money, buoyed by the other two city courses, and faced $6 million in capital repairs when the council decided to close the course permanently.

It’s not golf today, it’s country,” said Ward 5 Coun. Maureen Cassidy, the committee chair, told people in the visitors’ gallery after the debate.

Thank you for your participation and I’m sorry if you were expecting something more to talk about golf.”

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  1. Golfers are shown at the former River Road golf course in east London, owned and operated by City Hall.  (file photo)

    It was a municipal golf course. It could now become a “district park”.

  2. A pile of rubble is all that remains of the clubhouse at the former River Road golf course in east London, Monday April 25, 2022.  (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

    Fire-ravaged River Road golf clubhouse collapses


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