Coral Gables employees gathered with residents at the Coral Gables Country Club Thursday night to discuss ideas about renovating the Granada Golf Course and creating a running path on its perimeter.
The city’s Public Works Department said the renovation would include maintenance of tees, greens, bunkers, fairways, golf cart paths, and creating rain shelters on the course.
Officials and AECOM, a consulting company that Coral Gables hired, also brainstormed creating a pedestrian path around the course, placing some lighting on the large banyan trees and installing drinking fountains in hopes of making it a community focal point, said Alejandro Gonzalez, the city’s project manager for the proposed plan, which could start in spring 2015.
Vice Mayor William Kerdyk Jr. attended the meeting, along with City Attorney Craig Leen and former mayor Don Slesnick, who said renovating the course “would encourage people to come play golf.”
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The money for the project would come from the $420,000 set aside for the golf course’s general repairs and an additional $180,000 has been allocated for the shelters, Kerdyk said.
“We need to know what the community thinks before we can get started on finalizing anything” Gonzalez said Friday. “We understand that the golf course has many uses, and we want to make sure we get feedback from joggers, golfers and all community members.”
Staff urged residents to give their comments and opinions on the renovation proposal by filling out comment cards after the meeting.
An official concept will be created and will be brought before the city commission when the community solidifies their thoughts, Gonzalez said.
“Before we go into designs and waste money, we went to the community first,” he said. “Right now, these are just ideas. It benefits us to do this. Now, we will utilize their feedback, and know what we need to rework on and what to rethink. There will be many more meetings to come.”
Most residents at the meeting were on board for the restoration of the greens, but they were divided on whether to create a running path. Golfers said they were worried that golf balls will hit runners, while pedestrians said they need a path for more security, since they are forced to walk on the surrounding narrow streets that have incoming traffic.
None of the historical monuments would be modified, and the existing conditions of all the facilities will remain in place.
Jeannett Slesnick, the former mayor’s wife and a longtime Gables real estate broker, said the course has needed updating for a long time, but she opposed creating a running path around the golf course.
“I don’t support having the joggers on a regular path. It would bring too many people to the golf course and there is not enough parking,” she said, adding that the course has a narrow “cow path” that already discreetly accommodates runners. “I think the golf course should stay a golf course.”
Slesnick has been living on Greenway Drive for almost 30 years. She said she might be on board with having a slim path surrounding the course, but not concrete.
“I love seeing all the people utilize the golf course. I love sitting on my porch and interacting with the rollerbladers, bikers, joggers walkers — it’s like being on Central Park. However there is very limited parking, and most people drive over and park, and then run. There is no parking for everybody.”
Rick Smit, a regular bicycler, has been a Gables resident since 1986. He lives on Monserrate St, about a mile away from the golf course. He said building a path would be the fair thing to do for all Coral Gables residents, not just the golfers and people who live on the greens.
“The whole city pays taxes for that course, not just the people who golf there,” Smit said Friday, adding that not having a path is a safety concern. “You constantly have to stop and look for traffic because you’re on the edge of the street where there’s traffic.”
Other residents brought up the idea of making part of the golf course into a recreational park. Others complained about having runners being hit with golf balls, suggesting that trees be placed around the path for protection. Another proposal was to make the surrounding streets one-ways, so that a running path could be widened and not take up land from the golf course. A few even suggested some type of emergency button around the green for late night runners.
One concerned group of residents, who called themselves the Miami Bat Squad, reminded the community about protecting the habitat of the elusive Florida bonneted bat, which have made the golf course their home.
Smit said that regardless of what is decided, “runners are not going to stop coming, bikers are not going to stop coming and walkers aren’t going to stop coming.”
“You cant get rid of them. They’re out there from 4 a.m. til midnight, he said. “The golfers aren’t out there that long.”
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