FITCHBURG, Wis. - Golfers will be able to tee off at Nine Springs Golf Course indefinitely.
Fitchburg City Council made the decision in a 7 to 1 vote Tuesday night after nearly two years of studies and debate on the best use of the land. The other option was to create a park.
Fitchburg Mayor Shawn Pfaff said in Tuesday's meeting that it is premature to make it into a park. He asked alders to keep the golf course before the vote.
Alder Steve Arnold pitched an amendment that ultimately failed that would have kept the 33 acres open as a golf course at least through 2015. That proposal included funding for a neighborhood planning effort, which would come from a TIF district.
While that did not pass, Pfaff said the development around the golf course is a crucial part of what's to come for the area.
"This is a very urban part of our city, very diverse part of our city, and frankly, part of our city that has been neglected for a long time," Pfaff said.
Pfaff said developers have come forward in the last few weeks asking for time to pitch packages that correspond with the programming offered at Nine Springs.
"We have 20,000 cars a day go up and down. Our goal is get people from all parts of Fitchburg to stop, slow down, be part of this community so we're all in it together," Pfaff said.
Dane County Public Health provided the latest study, an analysis of the health impact of both options. Pfaff said that report offered the best ways to optimize use of the land with either a golf course or park, something he said is now the city's focus.
"That report will help us make this a more engaged and activity-filled area of our city," Pfaff said.
Nine Springs Golf Course Superintendent Dan Larsen has watched this debate play out since the start. He not only watched for his employment, but he lives on the ninth hole.
"This is my future. This has been my career for the last seven years," Larsen said.
Larsen said he struggles with patrolling the large mass of land, even with "No Trespassing" signs posted along the property's border. He said as a free public space, a park in that area would be very difficult to watch over and control.
"I've lived here long enough to know that this couldn't be a park," Larsen said.
Pfaff said creating a park on the 33 acres would be $40,000 to $50,000 more expensive than keeping the golf course there. However, maintaining and improving the course will not be without cost. Pfaff said the course and club house need work in order for the space to be inviting to the community.
In addition, alders called for additional programs at the course. Larsen said there are efforts to work more with the city's parks and recreation department to expand existing programs like the junior scholarships for golfing. Also, Larsen said there are plans to add cross-country and snowshoeing to the course during the winter months.
Alders did mention potentially changing the use of the land to a park in the future to better serve the children and families in that neighborhood.
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