Park board commissioner wants to put Vancouver golf courses under the microscope

Commissioner Dave Demers asking for ‘deep dive’ into the park board’s golf courses

One park board commissioner wants to take a closer look at Vancouver’s public golf courses, and whether golf is the best use for 15 per cent of the city’s park land.

“I’d like staff to draw a comprehensive picture of… those golf courses that are publicly owned, what we get out of them and what we’re missing out on, if anything,” park board commissioner Dave Demers told the Courier Wednesday.

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Demers has a motion going before the April 15 park board meeting that would direct staff to “evaluate the full spectrum of realized and unrealized benefits of Park Board land currently used for golf.” It also asks staff to compare the past, current and expected demands for golf with that of the rest of the city’s recreation system.

“Once we’ve got that, I’m hoping that we can put that into perspective with the rest of the recreation system that we have, just to make sure that we are doing the right thing for the entire city,” Demers said.

Vancouver Park Board operates three 18-hole golf courses — Langara, Fraserview and McCleery — as well as three pitch-and-putt courses at Queen Elizabeth Park, Rupert Park and Stanley Park. The three full-sized courses comprise more than 460 acres of land, about 15 per cent of all park land under the board’s jurisdiction.

“When I look at the data I have at my disposal there’s a few alarm bells that kind of triggered me to work on this,” he said.

Demers said that attendance at the three golf courses has been on the decline for decades. The number of golfers went down by six per cent between 2013 and 2018, and has decreased by more than 31 per cent since the late 1990s.

Green fees currently range from $59 to $67 in the peak season to between $28.25 and $36.50 during the off season. The golf courses are the park board’s second largest source of income, bringing in close to $10 million annually in green fees. About $300,000 goes into the golf reserve fund, but the rest is used to fund other parts of the parks and recreation system.

Demers said there could be multiple outcomes from the motion and subsequent report.

“It could be that we lower our prices so it opens the door to many more people, it could be that the golf course is open to everybody in the winter for cycling for just leisure and so on,” he said.

Commissioner John Coupar took to Twitter to voice his concerns about Demers’ motion, likening the move to former mayor Gregor Robertson’s motion to council last spring asking staff to approach the park board to discuss turning Langara Golf Course into a park with sports fields. It would have also seen the city partner with Musqueam First Nation, Langara College, the YMCA and the province for future use of the land.

The motion passed by council, but park board commissioners later voted against working with the city to look at possible alternate uses for the site.

In 2012, then-mayor Robertson told the Vancouver Sun “there is no strong business case” for the course and he was open to the idea of allowing housing on golf course land.

Demers maintained that his motion was not in the same vein as Robertson’s.

“One thing I really want to stress is that I’m a park board commissioner, it’s the board of parks and recreation and it’s nothing else than that,” he said. “There’s been, over the years, mention and requests by council and the mayor for various uses other than parks and that is not what is to be discussed. As I said, parks and rec and we’re keeping it within that.”

@JessicaEKerr

jkerr@vancourier.com

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