Tablet Local

Fort Worth parks board urges council to fully fund bond projects

Parks projects, including Rockwood Golf Course and the Como Community Center, deserve $13.8 million more than currently allocated in the 2014 bond program, the advisory board for Fort Worth Parks and Community Services voted Wednesday.

The six board members present unanimously endorsed the $22.3 million currently proposed for park projects, but said an increase to $36.1 million would allow for additional needed projects, said Sheila Hill, who chairs the advisory board.

“Continuing to ignore parks is going to be more detrimental to the bottom line of the city,” Hill said, calling parks one of the city’s most “precious commodities.”

City officials have proposed a total 2014 bond package of $293 million. The council plans to call an election in May.

The parks board agreed that a top priority is for the City Council to fully fund renovations at Rockwood Golf Course, increasing proposed funding from $2.2 million to $4.4 million. That would allow for a new course layout and better greens and irrigation system.

The board also recommended that the council eliminate the golf fund “negative balance,” the money that has been needed to subsidize the golf fund, which is now more than $8 million, and establish an annual subsidy of 18 percent to 20 percent of the golf budget.

Hill said only partially funding golf course renovations would be a waste of money, but a full renovation could bring in more revenue and help the entire golf program become more sustainable.

In October, the golf advisory committee, voted in favor of fully funding Rockwood renovations in the 2014 bond package.

One golf committee member who voted against the proposal was Dick Deatrick, saying golf is a losing business and investing in it is unwise. Studies show that golf has been in decline nationwide since the early 2000s. About 274,000 rounds of golf were played on Fort Worth-owned golf courses in fiscal 1998; 142,000 rounds were played in 2012, nearly a 50 percent drop.

Only Pecan Valley Golf Course made money last year, the same year the Z Boaz Golf Course closed because of its losses.

Richard Zavala, director of parks and community services, said the council needs to decide if golf is a business or a service. If the city is going to continue to run the courses, they need to be maintained, improved and subsidized, Zavala said after the meeting.

In June, money for parks in the proposed bond package jumped from $14.5 million to $22.3 million, but even that increase left 112 park and community projects unfunded and several projects partially funded.

A new Como Community Center, which is half funded in the proposed package, will depend on the city’s raising $3.5 million from the private sector.

“But they don’t know if that money is there,” Hill said. The Como center is an “important part of Fort Worth that just cannot be overlooked anymore.”

The parks board agreed that its top priority for increased bond allocation is full funding for Rockwood and the Como center.

Other projects on the parks board’s wish list include:

Zavala and Hill are scheduled to present the recommendations of city staff, the golf advisory committee and the parks board to the City Council on Dec. 3. The council has scheduled a workshop on Dec. 11 to finalize bond projects.