Councilwoman suggests course serve veterans to stay profitable
Ervin's proposes all-volunteer maintenance staff, charging for daily green fees
The Sligo Creek Golf Course could soon be a source of therapy for war veterans, run entirely by volunteers and open to the community, if Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin has her way.
Ervin (D-Dist. 5), of Silver Spring, proposed the idea in a letter to the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs and other county officials Tuesday, suggesting the MDVA partner with the county to run the course specifically for injured veterans whose physical therapy could be supplemented with golf.
Ervin said she modeled her idea after the American Lake Veterans Golf Course in Washington state, which gives veterans and active-duty military and their families first priority on the course. Military hospital patients play for free.
The course is operated and maintained by an all-volunteer force of grounds crews, operating staff, and maintenance and management personnel. Costs are paid for with annual pass and daily greens fee revenues, Ervin said.
"Why can't we use something like that at the Sligo Creek Golf Course?" she said in a phone interview today. "It could stand on its own two feet and not have to be subsidized by the local government."
Some community residents have been outspoken about wanting to keep the course open to golf after Oct. 1, when the county's lease with the Montgomery County Revenue Authority ends. The Revenue Authority backed out of its arrangement to operate the course after an independent study earlier this year found the course was a financial drain on the county golf system.
The legal agreement between the county and the Revenue Authority prevents the county from operating the Silver Spring facility as a golf course to prevent competition with the Revenue Authority's other facilities.
County Executive Isiah Leggett sent a proposal to the County Council July 22 asking for a $150,000 operating subsidy to keep the course open for up to two more years while establishing a task force to determine its long-term future.
Two weeks ago, Ervin said there's a chance the task force might determine the course cannot be run profitably and in one or two years the county would be faced with the same dilemma it faces now.
Ervin also sent a letter to Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson asking the board to include golf in the master plan study for reuse of the land.
Sonya Healy, a senior legislative aide to Ervin, said the councilwoman's new approach is a suggestion the task force could consider once it is up and running. In the meantime, Ervin will try to coordinate a tour of Sligo with the MDVA's deputy secretary, Wilbert Forbes, who could not be reached for comment this afternoon.
Keith Miller, director of the Revenue Authority, also could not be reached for comment today.
Pete Esker, a commissioner with the county's new Commission on Veterans Affairs, said he was impressed by Ervin's idea and thought it could be viable.
Esker works with the Walter Reed Society, a nonprofit that aides families and soldiers. He said golf tournaments for amputees have become popular and Sligo could partner with organizations such as the Professional Golf Association or Walter Reed Society.
Correction. The golf course was originally referred to as the American Lake Golf Course in Washington, D.C. It is American Lake Veterans Golf Course in Washington state.