COLUMN: Opportunity to enhance a beautiful asset

While I agree that city council may have put the cart before the horse in agreeing to accept a $1.3 million compensatory gift ...

On the Other Hand by Mark Rushton

While I agree that city council may have put the cart before the horse in agreeing to accept a $1.3 million compensatory gift from Kinder Morgan before the pipeline project is approved, the decision to convert that money into a proper “clubhouse” at Ledgeview Golf and Country Club makes sense.

Ledgeview is one of the most scenic golf courses in the Lower Mainland – its western vistas during a sunny day enhanced by sparkling snow-capped peaks all the way to West Vancouver. At night, the lights of the valley are eclipsed only by the twinkling of lit ski runs on Mt. Seymour, Grouse and Cypress.

What better, more attractive, location to hold weddings, receptions, conventions or community meetings?

Except that today the “clubhouse” is little more than a converted residence built more than 50 years ago and, due to size and layout, is not conducive to much more than a golfers’ hangout.

Fact of the matter is that Ledgeview belongs to the taxpayers of Abbotsford, and in the agreement putting the property into city ownership is the clause that it remain a golf course in perpetuity.

So we have it, yet due to its configuration, it is limited strictly to golf, despite its name – Ledgeview Golf and Country Club. Those last two words should be italicized because it is anything but.

However, with a proper, specially built centre, the lands and facility could, and should, become a significant revenue generator.

Throw in a swimming pool and perhaps a couple of tennis courts and it could become a true “country club” where perhaps people like me who don’t golf would be enticed to stop by, have dinner, and enjoy a drink while taking in the spectacular vista.

And no, I am not talking about exclusivity only available to the well-heeled.

Today, anyone can stop by the current clubhouse and have a drink, and perhaps even, when the “restaurant” is operating, something to eat.

It is your/our facility due to city ownership and is open to all without membership or attendance fees, unless of course you wish to golf.

Golfing is, today, the course’s only source of revenue, some of which is returned to the city via taxes, user fees etc. by the golf club operator.

However, those revenue “returns” pale in comparison to what the location could generate should a much larger, modern facility be constructed. It would be nice, don’t you think, to have a city facility actually providing a financial return rather than simply costing us tax-dollar support.

Additionally, should (and that is still a big question) Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion project get go-ahead approvals from senior government, its route through Ledgeview will essentially close the golf course for close to six months. The financial blow to the golf club and the impact on city revenues deserves compensation, and it appears from the memorandum of understanding that Kinder Morgan agrees, and thus the offer of funding for a new clubhouse.

I think the city was right to choose that over general revenue funds.

For more than 40 years I have lived within horse-riding and walking distance of Ledgeview. I drive by it virtually every day and am constantly reminded of how underused it is as a community facility.

Surely such a valuable parcel of land could be, and should be, a star attraction used by many to turn it into a financial asset rather than as a simple playground for a relatively small group of golfers.

Diversify the asset, make it more inclusive and, to paraphrase W.P. Kinsella in Shoeless Joe’s Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come.

markrushton@abbynews.com