As Orange County officials continue collecting public input on plans to redesign one of Mile Square Regional Park’s golf courses for general recreational use, survey results show that golf, open pathways and a nature center are among community members’ top priorities.
Residents were invited to drop by an informational meeting Thursday at the Fountain Valley park’s Freedom Hall. Large poster boards showing the project’s timeline were on display, including recent survey results gathered in person and through email. There was no formal presentation, but OC Parks staff members were at each station to address concerns and questions.
OC Parks displayed two possible scenarios that could be used to reimagine the 18-hole Players Course space, based on the survey results. The next step will be to finalize the design with the help of input collected from residents during Thursday’s meeting. A final design and master plan for the park could be released next year.
The two scenarios are essentially the same in the amenities provided. The difference is in each proposal’s layout.
OC Parks’ planning and design manager, Scott Thomas, said the first option relies on using straight lines to divide green space and a pathway. The second option uses a more organic and free-flowing approach, he said.
Thomas said survey results showed that golf is a high priority for residents, but the goal of the project is to also provide green open space to residents of north Orange County who are looking for ways to connect with nature.
“We’ve heard them loud and clear and we’re saying it’s still accommodated,” Thomas said, referring to golf.
The county began collecting feedback from residents earlier this year when it held a public forum on what it could do with the Players Course.
The county owns the 640-acre regional park and contracts out operations for its three golf courses — the Players Course, the 18-hole Classic Course and the 18-hole David Baker Golf Course. The land take-back would cancel $3.6 million in unpaid rent the county is owed by Mile Square Golf Course LP, operator of the Mile Square Golf Course complex, which includes the Players Course and Classic Course.
But the removal of a golf course remained an issue for avid golfers who stopped by Thursday’s open house.
Craig Kessler, director of governmental affairs for the Southern California Golf Assn., said in an interview that he took issue with how the surveys were conducted. They didn’t specifically list golf, Kessler said, and residents had “to go to great lengths to write golf in” under the “other” category.
“Orange County is the second-most golf-starved area,” Kessler said. He added that he wasn’t trying to discredit other sports suggested, such as pickleball, but said they don’t bring in as much revenue.
Huntington Beach resident Vic Leipzig, a former mayor, said that although he’d like to retain the golf course, the addition of ponds would help support bird life.
“My personal perspective is the conversion of a golf course into a bird habitat would be good,” Leipzig said. “But the nature center in Option 2 concerns me” because it would remove the gate protecting an area of the park that is home to birds.