Letters: Como Golf Course and the history of St. Paul’s district councils

Golf club opposes re-use of Como Golf Course

This communication is intended for the City Council of St. Paul, district councils and anyone involved with the future of Como Golf Course. The following views are those of the Como Men’s Golf Club Board of Directors and its membership.

First of all, we oppose the request of the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department’s request for funding of a study concerning the re-use of Como Golf Course. We further oppose the implicit decision having been made to close the course. This study is unneeded as the topic has already been addressed in an earlier Transportation Implementation Plan for the entire regional park. We suggest that if the $100,000 asked for to implement this study is available at a later date that these funds be used in an effort to promote and improve golf participation both at Como and the other city courses.

It was in 1929 that Como Golf Course was founded. During its 84 years this course has been, and we hope will have the opportunity to continue as, an attractive amenity that complements other activities within the park as well as promotes active lifestyles as encouraged by the department. We commend Parks and Recreation for developing various marketing tools, such as passes, customer loyalty cards, a birthday club and other options available to golfers.

Yes, golf is on the decline, not only here but in most parts of the country. We also believe that this could be cyclical and the trend will switch to better times. During these days we dispute Como’s implied lack of viability and are disappointed by the lack of effort on the part of Parks and Recreation to make concerted efforts to market and distinguish Como’s advantages from other courses in the metropolitan area. Such advantages include, most particularly in the age of $4 per gallon gas, the proximity of this course to local residents and other park attractions, affordability, challenge without intimidation and super physical conditioning.

Assurances were made in spring 2012 to representatives of both this club and those from Highland and Phalen, for implementation of innovative promotional efforts toward generating increased course use. From inquiry and observation, such actions did not occur in any notable way. We wish to see genuine efforts made in this regard before any firm decision is made on Como’s fate. Time can solve big problems.

We believe Como Golf Course continues to be an important component of both the city’s park system and the regional park. We further believe increased course use and financial health can be achieved with some imaginative efforts. The Como Men’s Golf Club would welcome the opportunity for its representatives to have further conversations with St. Paul representatives about the above issues and others that might arise in the course of such talks.

Como Men’s Golf Club

A more complete history of St. Paul’s district councils

This letter is in reference to the March 2013 Bugle article titled “A St. Paul district council primer.” Some of us who were active in community affairs in those days have a somewhat different and more complete view of the formation of the district councils. We refer to the History of the Association of St. Paul Communities: A Brief Review of Its History: March 1977 (available at the library).

The organization of the Association of St. Paul Communities was the outgrowth of suggestions to activists in several neighborhood organizations of St. Paul in 1967 by James Dalglish, at that time a city commissioner of St. Paul. He felt the need of a medium to bring the problems of the various communities to the attention of the City Council and a channel through which city government could respond and inform the citizens of the legislation and actions for which their government was responsible.

Finally, Douglas Kelm of the Merriam Park community sent a letter to all identified neighborhood associations, calling a meeting to consider ways to involve communities in city problems that involved its citizens. Dr. Fredric R. Steinhauser of the St. Anthony Park Association convened the meeting at the Merriam Park Community Center. Representatives from 21 community organizations participated. The intent to organize was agreed upon and a second meeting was set. Steinhauser prepared materials that included naming the organization the Association of St. Paul Communities and the writing of the bylaws. The organization met each month at a different community. The City Council was pleased, as it provided a needed way to communicate directly with the different communities.

One of the goals of the association was for the City Council to divide St. Paul into districts, roughly along lines of the volunteer community organizations but to finance an office in each district staffed with a paid administrator. The City Council called for meetings at City Hall of volunteers who came up with the present district system. This plan called for a council coordinator. The City Council almost, but not quite, acted on these proposals.

Shortly after, Mayor [Lawrence] Cohen and the City Council established a Committee on Citizen Participation. Fifteen members were appointed to this committee. The committee finished its report in the fall of 1973. Again, the report of the committee was almost, but not quite, acted on by the City Council.

In 1975, another attempt at organizing a citizen-participation plan was the Citizen Participation Forum, sponsored by a group of government agencies. Many citizens attended those meetings. They formed three committees. One of the committees was for district boundaries. The goal was to define natural areas for 10 to 16 districts. The forum sent a plan for 16 districts to the City Council, which was adopted with some adjustment. The plan did not, however, offer a procedure for changing district boundaries. The boundaries were, indeed, made by those who showed up.

John Rutford and Fred Steinhauser

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