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Sticking Up for Safety

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In a city proud of its sweeping vistas, the stark, 100-foot black poles that recently sprouted along the Ventura Freeway are just plain ugly.

And the heavy nets that will soon festoon the poles certainly won’t help the view.

But city officials--bent on putting safety and profits before aesthetics-- say the unsightly spectacle at Los Robles Greens is the only way they know to protect neighbors from flying golf balls and the city-owned golf course from legal action.

In fact, it was a lawsuit--by a property owner who said he was hit and knocked unconscious by an errant orb--that forced the city to shut down its profitable driving range nearly a year ago and spend $677,000 to reconfigure the range and the course’s ninth hole.

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“The reason [the poles] are built so big is we were sued,” City Atty. Mark Sellers explained. “In order to resolve that, the landowner had to be assured there were no chances of a golf ball landing on the property. The other thing is, the architect, knowing we had been sued, wanted to be extra careful that it would never happen again.”

And it shouldn’t, given that golfers will be teeing off more than 900 feet from the nearest building.

“It’s next to impossible for somebody to put a ball over that fence,” said Bret Richardson at Environmental Golf/Valley Crest Landscape of San Fernando, the contractor overseeing the project.

And even if some lucky duffer does hit that far, the shot would run smack into a 75-foot barrier of poles and netting at the far end.

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Golfers with a tendency to hook or slice won’t have to worry either. The barrier running along the range’s borders--75 feet tall at its lowest point, 100 feet at its highest--will make the possibility of hitting it out of the park highly unlikely.

But just in case, the range’s designers have built another fence several yards beyond the first one.

It’s a lot of work to provide golfers with a place to practice their swings. But the driving range has proven profitable in the past, bringing the city as much as $40,000 a year. A new contract starting this spring could mean even more money for city coffers.

After months of work, the renovation project is nearly complete.

“All the work to configure the No. 9 green is done,” Richardson said.

“We’ll be installing the netting for those barrier poles starting next week,” he said, adding that hanging the huge, custom-made nets could take up to two weeks to complete.

Once the nets are installed, grass will be seeded on the already graded range. Richardson said planting the grass before the nets are up would have meant more work because the heavy equipment used to hang the barriers would have ripped it up.

It could take 30 to 60 days after that before the course’s management company, M.F. Daily of Camarillo, decides the range and the new ninth green are ready for play.

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“Not knowing the weather conditions, we could have a cold front come in, and the seed won’t want to grow as fast as if it were summer,” he said.


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