The City of Winnipeg could soon sell off the John Blumberg Golf Course for redevelopment, despite a push to keep it in public hands.
A new report proposes the sale of the 199-acre property west of the city to Schinkel Properties Inc. for $13.7 million. It would require the approval of two-thirds of Winnipeg council members and some clearances from the Rural Municipality of Headingley.
The potential deal has teed off plenty of opposition from green-space advocates who are lobbying the city to keep ownership of the land.
"(Council recently set a long-term goal to add) 1,000 acres of green space to what Winnipeg already has, and here they are turning around and selling 200 acres. If they sell these 200 acres, they won’t be able to replace them. It makes absolutely (no) sense," said Shelley Sweeney, a member of Outdoor Urban Recreational Spaces-Winnipeg.
The group’s online petition against the move had gathered nearly 1,900 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.
At least 250 others have signed hard copies of the petition, showing many Winnipeggers value the 27-hole golf course, Sweeney said.
"I think that people understand that it is a major, significant… green space," she said.
It would be short-sighted to give up civic ownership of the land, which could serve more uses than golf, Sweeney said. She stressed trees within green spaces are also critical, since they can absorb water and carbon, helping to combat climate change.
"Once you’ve sold it, you can’t turn it into a park land or a nature corridor or (anything) — it’s gone."
If the deal is finalized, Schinkel plans to develop the site into 339 single-family lots, 36 acres of parkland, 13 acres of commercial land and 29 acres of multi-family property over the next 10 years.
"A major focus of the development will be connected walking paths and a large park along the river," the city report notes.
John Blumberg was designed by architect and Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member Clinton (Robbie) Robinson. It opened in 1969. The City of Winnipeg deemed the property surplus in 2013.
Coun. Scott Gillingham, finance committee chairman, said he’s leaning towards supporting the sale, though he will seek more detail before making a final decision.
He doesn’t believe the golf course qualifies as an accessible, local green space for most Winnipeggers, he said.
"I’m intending to support the sale of the property. It’s outside the city of Winnipeg (and) it’s 200 acres that can only be accessed by the public by paying a fee to golf on it… during the summer time."
Since 90 per cent of net proceeds from the proposed sale are expected to be invested in a "transformative fund" that supports recreation, green space and the tree canopy within city limits, Gillingham expects the sale will benefit Winnipeggers.
"There’s a way, by taking the proceeds of this sale, we can invest in land inside the city of Winnipeg that is accessible to all people at no admission fee for a variety of recreation purposes," he said.
The rest of the sale profits would go to Winnipeg Golf Services.
The city report notes the John Blumberg softball complex and soccer fields are not part of the sales proposal.
The property and development committee will cast the first city hall vote on the issue Jan. 17.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.