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Parks Shouldn’t Have to Pay

As Ventura County invites private developers to tee up their proposals to build a golf course in yet another public park, we caution against going too far with this strategy of making parks pay their own way.

The county has many golfers and they deserve adequate facilities. But parks--like law enforcement and efficient public transit--are essential quality-of-life amenities that should not be expected to turn a profit.

The Board of Supervisors last week asked for proposals to build two 18-hole golf courses at Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park northeast of Moorpark.

In addition:

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* Plans for an 18-hole course and a large amphitheater near Camarillo are being revised to satisfy a judge’s concerns over the projects’ environmental impact.

* Both an 18-hole regulation course and a nine-hole, par-three course are planned for Toland Park near Santa Paula.

Those projects would help cover the parks department’s $1-million annual deficit.

“If all three of those were to actually come to fruition, they would probably generate enough money to close that gap five years from now,” says John Johnston, director of the Ventura County General Services Agency.

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Environmentalists generally oppose golf courses because they use vast amounts of scarce water, replace native vegetation with something imported and pollute streams and ground water with fertilizers and pesticides. Yet the county and most of its cities see golf courses as a way to cash in on soaring popularity of the game, which is fueled by the maturing of the baby boom generation and the hipper image golf has acquired thanks to the charismatic young star Tiger Woods.

It makes sense to use some of the county’s parkland for golf, which is as legitimate a means for enjoying outdoor recreation as hiking or playing baseball. But the county should beware of turning too much acreage over to private developers, even under contracts that help support the parks department.

Parks contribute greatly to the pleasure of living in Ventura County. They should not have to contribute to the treasury as well.


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