The city of Aurora, Ohio wants to buy The Aurora Golf Club, but questions over how much of the acquired property could be mowed must be resolved.
An official who would work with the city of Aurora, Ohio, if it buys The Aurora Golf Club, a troubled club that was recently opened to the public after 80 years as a members-only property, said town leaders could negotiate with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to get permission to mow more of the grass than is currently allowed, thus addressing a major concern raised by residents about the potential municipal takeover of the club.
“Probably the biggest area that is not addressed by the [Ohio EPA] restoration plan is the area on the south side of the golf course,” said Amy Brennan, Executive Director of Chagrin River Watershed Partners, told the Aurora (Ohio) Advocate.
“If folks want a pristine, mowed area, that is something they can get approval for from the Ohio EPA,” she said. “There likely are options to get some areas mowed —areas next to golf cart paths, for picnic shelters, for people to play with Frisbees.
“There are opportunities for the city to say, ‘We want to use parts of the property for certain things,’ ” Brennan said. “That needs to be addressed while negotiations are going on.”
Aurora civic leaders are considering acquiring 196 acres of golf course land. Aurora Recreation LLC, which owns the property, would be compensated with grant money from the Ohio EPA.
The Ohio EPA grant would be for $4.521 million, of which Aurora Recreation would receive $3.9 million, said Law Director Alan Shorr. The remainder of the grant money —$621,000—would be used to restore the Aurora branch of the Chagrin River, Shorr said.
Because some of the land would be restored, however, the grant agreement stipulates that some of the property must remain untouched—even by lawn mowers.
Brennan was unable to say specifically how much land can’t be mowed under current EPA rules.
The Aurora City Council must vote to accept the grant for the deal to go through, and at a Council meeting on April 9, some residents expressed concern about the future look of the golf course, especially if the existing stipulations remained in place.
Resident Bill Avalon said other golf courses are “very bad to look at” if they are not maintained.
“Imagine a golf course that has gone to seed,” resident Tim Taylor added. “I don’t think that’s what we want.”
Brennan said people “who are concerned about the look are the ones who have always seen it as a golf course. It is difficult for them to imagine how it might look differently.”
Brennan said all the details have not been worked out regarding how The Aurora Golf Club would look if the deal goes through.
“Areas near the stream will not just be grass growing out,” she said. “Those areas will be actively revegitated with tree and shrub species. Maybe we could plant some plants that gives it more of an aesthetic feel.”
Of the 196 acres that the city could obtain, Brennan said 33 acres will be used for the actual stream corridor restoration.
“That would be the area that is actively planted, to allow it to grow into a forested area,” she said. “Obviously, it wouldn’t be a forest immediately. It would be a slow transition.”
There is an additional 15 acres of wetlands that is not currently maintained, Brennan pointed out.
“There is [also] a significant amount of this property, with shrubs, that is already not maintained,” she said.
People in Geauga County who were skeptical about the appearance when the Geauga County Park District took ownership of Orchard Hills Golf Course, through a similar situation to that in Aurora, “now are surprised that things look pretty good,” she added.
“A lot of the concerns that came up at the beginning of the [Orchard Hills] project have not been as big a concern long-term,” she said.
“It looks like a meadow. They have planted a number of trees, and they’re maintaining some of the areas next to the golf cart paths. There are people walking with their kids and dogs.”
Further discussion of the issue was planned for the next Council meeting on April 23. The Council is likely to vote on the matter at its May 14 meeting.