Perhaps you’ve heard about the controversy over Albany’s city owned golf course? There’s quite the kurfuffle over Mayor Sheehan’s decision to not open the municipal course for the season so far this year. Apparently, despite the fact that there are numerous other options for getting one’s 18 holes in, folks want to play at Capital Hills. I get it. I mean, it’s beautiful and, of course, cheap.
Cheap to play, that is. Maintaining that tremendous acreage is by no means inexpensive, and that is the argument put forth by the city of Albany. The golf course is not self-supporting and the claim made by the mayor’s office is that opening and collecting greens fees does not make fiscal sense during a time of tremendous economic difficulty.
I don’t play golf, although my late Uncle John and his wife, Bridie, were club champions at their local course outside of Dublin. I do, though, crave fresh air and exercise and believe that Capital Hills is truly a jewel in the midst of the city. There are trails out there that are spectacularly beautiful and where one might wonder if they might be the only person within miles. It’s idyllic.
From November through early April, typically, I walk, run or ski the course multiple times a week. It is my dog’s favorite place, other than the Cape house on the private pond we’ve rented the last few years. Together, Jeter and I have wandered countless times around the 18 holes and along the Normanskill Creek and through quiet trails marked by beer and soda cans nailed to trees.
Sometimes we run down the yellow brick road, and up the gravel road near the Normanskill Dog Park, to enter the golf course on the challenging back 9. I never get tired of it, even when my legs scream about going up those damn hills. It’s an escape from city living and sidewalks and roads and I always appreciate this seasonal Albany perk.
I’m not unsympathetic towards the golfers really. I understand that this is typically their time of the year to “own” the golf course. But, this year is different, in so many ways, and I fully support the mayor’s decision to be fiscally conservative when it comes to our city’s public assets.
Over the years, I’ve often thought the city could make better use of green spaces. Why can’t we close Washington Park to traffic during the daytime on summer weekends so families could ride bicycles without fear of a reckless or texting driver? Maybe bring in some food trucks and turn it into a daytime destination? They seem to manage it in NYC, and I think it could be done in Albany as well.
But, back to the piece of land currently in question – the public golf course. During an economic crisis the likes of which most of us have never before seen, is subsidizing golf really the best use of public money? Has anyone considered charging a fee to nonresident dog walkers and runners? I know that Albanians are not permitted to make use of suburban amenities, (pools, dog parks, etc) often even with a fee, so why do we give away access to our tax maintained assets? Is there a way to maximize usage to close the fiscal gap? And – which trail should Jeter and I take today for our walk? Because as long as it’s closed, we’ll be there.