The Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort consists of two 18-holes golf courses; the Legend Course that was bought by the city, as it was being built in 1959, and the Resort Course that was built with city bond money and opened in 1995. There is also the historic clubhouse, designed by the great American architect, Hugh Kaptur.
Golf in the US is now on an upswing after declining for more than a decade. This generated a failed bill in Sacramento (https://www.scga.org/govt-affairs/category/legislative/view/ab-672-dies-in-committee) to facilitate the development of California’s municipal golf courses.
The Oswit Land Trust (OLT) used this potential development opportunity to propose acquiring the golf course for land preservation and creation of a desert preserve. However, we believe a better option is to preserve the golf course with a conservation easement that will keep the land as open space for the golf course in perpetuity.
While initially seeking to acquire both Legend and Resort courses, OLT has now stated it is their intention to only acquire Resort course to turn it into a desert preserve. Their vision is to remove the golf courses from the community and spend millions of dollars to create the "Mesquite Desert Preserve". This would be an experiment that not only jeopardizes the neighboring communities livelihoods, privacy, and security, but has a much larger impact on Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley.
There is tremendous need for recreational amenities in any community.
Palm Springs has done a great job in this area. We have multiple parks, the Swim Center, the Desert Highland Unity and Demuth community centers, the ball fields, pickle ball and tennis courts and yes, the golf course, among other things. All are well utilized and are provided by the city.
OLT's plan would transform a major recreational site that is used by many into one used by a few.
Parks and Recreation and its amenities are a key essential service that is provided by the city – the same as police and fire, building and planning and all the other services Palm Springs provides.
These amenities are not profit centers. They are what taxes and user fees are expected to pay for.
Walking trails, foot golf, bicycle riding, jogging and simply relaxing and enjoy the views are all activities that take place here, at Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort.
Foot Golf is gaining traction (https://sportseventsmediagroup.com/footgolf-popularity/) especially among younger adults and children - another recreational resource for our community
The First Tee organization utilizes Tahquitz Creek to teach our youth from all income levels. In addition to teaching the game, they create learning experiences that build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience, skills that our youth will carry with them in everything that they do.
Education and learning is a part of any golf course. To have golf and the other activities available to everyone, for little to no cost, is something that not many communities are fortunate to enjoy.
Losing the courses would clearly create a negative impact to our community. Our tourism economy would be damaged. Jobs would be lost.
Revenue from tourism and from our "snowbird" community would see downward trends over the years. Hotels, vacation rentals, restaurants, shops and local businesses would all be affected.
To put this in perspective, assume that 30% of all played rounds (90,000 in non-pandemic times) are by tourists/snowbirds/non-valley guests. Also assume (conservatively) each round has an economic impact value of between $275 - $375 (hotel, dining, entertainment, shopping, etc.).
This would translate to $10,000,000+ annually of lost economic revenue to the city, spent on our local businesses. The impact to our local businesses would be devastating.
There are a multitude of studies that support increased home values for golf course properties. One, published by the National Parks and Recreation Association (https://www.nrpa.org/parks-recreation-magazine/2020/june/how-much-does-living-close-to-a-golf-course-add-to-property-values/) shows that properties built on or around a golf course can command as much as a 15-30% premium over non-golf course properties.
While the Tahquitz Creek operational bottom line varies from year to year, it's nowhere near the long-term costs to the city's economy, should the Resort course be converted. In a 10-year analysis of the Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort financials, the Resort has turned a profit, even through the pandemic.
There will be little to no operational revenue from the "Mesquite Desert Preserve" project. The desert preserve is stated that it will be maintained by "volunteers". And funding for maintenance and security will be through grants and endowments. We ask that everyone question these sources of funds - How long will they be available? Does OLT qualify for these funds? What type of security will be provided on a consistent and on an immediate, as-needed basis? Question the provided responses, as well. Do they make sense? Can they be validated? We encourage everyone to come to their own conclusions.
While OLT did an admirable job in forestalling housing development in Oswit Canyon, we would like to know what their track record is in doing more than just land acquisition. Their plan is more akin to a construction project – and all that entails.
To our knowledge they have no experience in planning and executing a project of this scope and magnitude.
What if things don’t go as planned? What if the funds run out mid-project? We certainly don’t want to be left with yet another unfinished project in Palm Springs!
Residents might have to pony up additional sales or use taxes to cover budget shortfalls.
There’s a common misconception that golf exists only for the 1% - the elite. That in fact is simply not true.
According to The National Golf Foundation, of the almost 25 million on-course golfers the vast majority play on public and municipal golf courses. Tahquitz is the only municipal golf course in the city, and we need it – we can’t afford to lose it. Its players span the range of all socio-economic demographics and many of its users are retirees on fixed incomes who have no other local option as to where to play.
OLT has alternative avenues to create desert preserve space. There are acres of vacant, undeveloped land that could be used for this purpose. And we suspect that the cost of the creating preserves from these spaces would be significantly less than demolishing and rebuilding on the Tahquitz Creek Golf courses.
An immediate, viable option that OLT is pursuing revolves around the Bel-Air Greens and Mesquite Country Club golf courses. Bel-Air Greens has been closed for quite awhile and has fallen in a state of disrepair. Mesquite, while open, is poorly maintained and hardly used. Both are privately owned and in the for sale category. Acquisition and conversion of these parcels would certainly seem to be a win-win situation!