I’ve been reading Real Stories North for a few weeks now and like many other Duluthians, I can no longer remain silent. Our Mayor’s decision to not open Lester Park Golf Course shows how out of touch with Duluth she really is. For all of the blue-collar people out there who grind away trying to make a living, a simple game of golf in our local community golf course is often the one thing we have to look forward to. Now the mayor has taken that away. We’re all forced to drive to other courses and often spend much more money to play the game that offers a great way to de-stress. For many, golf is now too expensive to play without being able to play at Lester Park.
So many Duluthians look forward to the moment every year that this beloved course opens. It isn’t the nicest course and it doesn’t attract players from outside of the region. But the point of Lester Park is that it’s ours and it’s affordable. The Mayor comes from the Twin Cities where there are many more resources available and surely many more golf courses and driving ranges that people can go to if one is closed. She doesn’t understand how important our course is, only a local mayor like Don Ness could possibly understand this – he grew up here and he understood the importance of Lester to the people of Duluth.
This year, Mayor Larson decided to keep the course closed because the money was “needed for essential services like police, fire, and street repair.” STREET REPAIR? Which streets are actually being repaired? Duluth is famous for 4 things, Bob Dylan, the lift bridge, ridiculous amounts of bike paths, and horrible roads. If the Mayor was serious about street repair we probably need to be canceling a lot more than a community golf course. Considering that the roads in Duluth have only become worse during Mayor Larson’s tenure, not better, I don’t think she cares all that much for our streets. The Mayor has pumped countless millions of dollars into endless miles of bike paths and repairing the Lakewalk yet again. Somehow maintaining a community golf course that has been used for generations is just too much to ask.
Maybe the problem is that Mayor Larson just doesn’t like golf. Perhaps she doesn’t understand the benefits that golf provides. She doesn’t see the personal fitness, social, or mental health benefits from golf. She must not know that golf isn’t just a game to pass the time, but presents golfers with so many tangible benefits – that golf is our way to “let go” as the Mayor likes to do with her duties. It’s also possible that the Mayor believes golf is racist. She must only see golf courses that desegregated in the 1990s like Agusta and doesn’t realize that Tiger Woods is one of the sport’s most famous players (somebody let her know he’s African American). Maybe she hates golf because she believes it is misogynistic. When you tee off at a golf course, the woman’s tee is far closer to the hole than the men’s tee. It is clear that golf, or at least Lester Park, does not fit Mayor Larson’s vision of utopian Duluth, where we all ride around on bicycles, we all live in affordable housing, and we’re all taxed enough that there are no rich people in Duluth. Presumably, those that have any amount of money will willingly stay in Duluth as their wealth is redistributed throughout the community. Having great bike paths will not make up for the fact that she’s trying to make Duluth the next Venezuela. The chickens are coming home to roost. All of this tax increment financing that the city has doled out has put a strain on the amount of taxes we collect as a city. Our population is already shrinking and actions like this are only going to cause people to flee Duluth even more.
It’s hard to imagine that the 85 miles of bike-optimized trails and 12 miles of paved, accessible trails that people use for free aren’t costing the city a pretty penny to maintain, but since they don’t directly generate revenue, I guess they can’t show a loss. The patrons and supporters of the Lester Park Golf Course have ideas to reduce maintenance costs, but they won’t be heard. As Real Stories North reported in May, the Mayor isn’t keen on getting advice from those with experience. Her response to an offer of help from the business community was a snarky tweet that said “Thank you for the ‘offer’ to ‘advise’ me on ‘hard decisions’. I’m too busy leading to take you up on that. – Emily P.S. thx for offering to bring other men along, too!”