Keeping John Blumberg Golf Course in public hands is the goal of a new campaign launched after the City of Winnipeg invited options to sell it.
Brian Campbell, who operates the Headingley course through a lease with the city, has long opposed the city's decision to issue a request for proposals that seeks options to sell the property or enter into a joint venture.
Campbell is urging the city to keep the land, which he deems a valuable green space.
"Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. There’s lots of room (at the property) where we can add walking paths and other stuff to the area. I’d rather see the city make it a bigger green space than take it away," he said.
Campbell said the course is on track to see 30,000 rounds of golf played this year, which he believes shows a clear demand for golf in the area.
He said that’s a key reason why the city should reject any sale of the site, despite issuing a request for proposals to potential buyers in 2020 and deeming the property surplus in 2013.
Campbell is part of an online campaign against the potential sale, which includes a petition that had gathered more than 750 signatures by Thursday.
Outdoor Urban Recreational Spaces - Winnipeg, which advocates to preserve and increase green spaces, is pushing for the golf course to remain under city control. The group says that’s key to ensuring the 200-acre space remains open for the public to enjoy.
"It’s important for a lot of reasons. We have a shortage of green space in Winnipeg… It’s (also) a corridor for people to be able to connect along the river. More and more cities are trying to preserve that riverside land and here we’re actually looking at selling it," said group member Pam Lucenkiw.
Lucenkiw said selling the golf course would be "illogical" at this point, since city council recently approved a long-term goal to add 1,000 acres of locally accessible green space.
"So, if we’re adding 1,000 acres of green space, why would we want to sell 200 acres that we already own? It’s irreplaceable," she said.
However, keeping the course in city hands could come with significant costs that must be factored into any final decision, said Coun. Scott Gillingham, city council’s finance chairperson.
As long as the city owns the course, it would not only lose any potential sale revenue but would also need to pay to maintain it, said Gillingham.
"We have to make sure that we have the funding available to maintain what we already own. We also need to keep in mind that there is a desire and need for green space, and I appreciate that," he said.
The councillor said the joint venture or sale proposals may preserve some green space as well, which could include options to use the site for more than just golf.
"Golf courses are primarily single-use properties. So, we also have to consider how we can maximize the use of city facilities so the maximum number of people can use (them) for various purposes," said Gillingham.
Until the pandemic hit, golf courses in and around Winnipeg were deemed to be under-used, so it’s not clear how much demand for the sport will remain after the pandemic ends, Gillingham said.
A report that will include options for the potential lease or sale of the course is expected to be released later this year.
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.