Future of Maplewood’s Ponds golf course in limbo after Ramsey County put up for sale

Maplewood leaders said they simply don’t have the green to purchase the 88 acres of greens and fairways that make up the now-closed ponds at Battle Creek Golf Course.

Ramsey County offered to sell the golf course to Maplewood after it closed last fall. Maplewood Mayor Marilee Abrams said the county has rejected the city’s request to reopen the golf course this spring amid talks, so the future of the 88-acre parcel remains in limbo.

“The county came to Maplewood on February 3 and offered to sell us Bonds Golf Course,” Abrams said. “Unfortunately, we have not budgeted for the purchase of a golf course nor do we have the staff or experience to run the golf course. The golf course is not on the table at this point.”

Abrams declined to share the potential purchase price.

Ramsey County closed the 9-hole course last September. It was the worst performing of its five courses and was losing money before the COVID-19 pandemic renewed interest in the sport. The decision to close the course and possibly redevelop it sparked a heated debate in the community with some arguing that it should remain a golf destination. Others said they should be preserved as green spaces, while another faction said developing affordable housing should be a top priority.

Maplewood leaders discussed the potential land deal in several closed-door sessions. Abrams said city and council employees will discuss the future of the ponds at a public workshop on May 23.

“This is a really important property of high environmental value,” Abrams said. “This is a heritage property in our community.”

Ramsey County spokeswoman Alison Winters said the county has engaged Maplewood about the golf course and cleared another vacant 77-acre property north of the county’s repair facility.

“While we speak with Maplewood, we also continue to evaluate the North and South parcels for future development, but we don’t have any active inquiries,” Winters said.

She emphasized that the county would not open or maintain it as a golf course but would secure and maintain the property “consistent with our practices at other vacant county-owned properties.” Winters said the county’s 2022 budget does not include funding or staffing for the golf course.

Abrams said neighbors are concerned that the property will slip into disrepair. She said that would be part of the workshop discussion.

The county opened the golf course in 2001 on the county repairs property as an innovative business program for guests spending time at the nearby county duty station.

The county has announced plans to close the course in 2019 citing operating losses and the county’s four other golf courses. It’s quickly becoming the latest battleground between conservationists calling for green spaces and county leaders who have dedicated them to redevelopment with an emphasis on affordable housing.

Golf enthusiasts lobbied to keep it open, and friends of the nonprofit parks and fairways of St. Paul and Ramsey County argued that the course should be preserved under a 1994 county charter amendment requiring the replacement of lost parks for development.

The county says the record is clear: The Ponds is not technically a park because it is built on a correctional property.

The potential development of the adjacent 77-acre parcel north of the workshop has also sparked controversy with environmental groups pushing to conserve the property as a meadows for endangered grassland birds.

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