Spokane’s park leaders have one word for youngsters sledding on municipal golf courses: SCRAM!
Same for anyone else who wants to use the city’s golf courses for skiing or snowshoeing.
The Spokane Park Board on Thursday unanimously voted to ban all winter activities at its four courses – Downriver, Esmeralda, Indian Canyon and the Creek at Qualchan.
That means an end to one of the most popular winter pastimes in northwest Spokane where Downriver Golf Course has presented kids and adults with a thrilling slide down its steep embankment. And a longstanding city program to establish cross country ski tracks in new snow at Downriver has been discontinued.
Signs are expected to be posted and security guards deployed to keep people away, according to park department documents.
By comparison, Spokane County does not prohibit winter activity, but the terrain at its courses is not conducive to sledding, said county Parks Director Doug Chase.
Coeur d’Alene sledders go to Cherry Hill Park.
“It’s a dumb thing to do,” Councilman Bob Apple said of the ban. He sits on the Park Board but abstained from voting, because the outcome was a foregone conclusion.
“The golfers are acting like golfers. ‘It’s ours and nobody else can use it.’ That’s a bad attitude,” Apple said.
Winter sports have been banned at the steep-terrain Indian Canyon course for years.
Spokane Parks Director Mike Stone told Park Board members Thursday that winter use of the courses damages the grass on greens and other exposed areas, causing them to turn green more slowly in the spring. As a result, the city courses are at a competitive disadvantage with other courses in the region that don’t have to contend with winter die-back caused by activities such as sledding and skiing.
“The damage is seen for many months,” Stone said.
Efforts to cordon off sensitive areas have been met with resistance. Temporary fences are torn down. Also, parks crews are forced to clean up trash left behind. Some burglaries at the clubhouses may be attributable to sledding activity, Stone said.
During Thursday’s meeting, Apple issued a word of caution.
“I really don’t think it’s a horrible problem,” Apple said.
If the golf courses are closed to sledding and other winter activities, then young people will seek out other, possibly more dangerous hills.
“I don’t think we are going to end sledding,” Apple said.
Park Board President Frank Knott told Apple that if the City Council wanted to take over responsibility for sledders then he would be happy to allow the council to do so.
“I don’t see why the golf courses need to be open to this responsibility,” Knott said.
Victor Frazier, treasurer of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, said, “It just seems like the city is eliminating more and more things for youth to do, and that is too bad.”
In other business, the Park Board approved hiring a consulting team to help design new aquatics facilities for the parks department. ALSC Architects of Spokane is teaming up with Counsilman Hunsaker, a design firm based in Los Angeles and St. Louis.
Voters would likely be asked to approve any new spending for pools.