City signs lease for Douglas golf course

18-hole course has been 20 years in the planning

Posted: Friday, February 11, 2005

Chip Parr has the perfect name for a golfer.

"Chip" means a short, lofted shot from around the green. "Par" is the number of shots a player should take for a hole or full round of golf.

Until now, though, the 58-year-old state employee was stuck in the rough through two decades of planning to build a standard 18-hole golf course in Alaska's capital. Then Thursday, the man who incorporated a nonprofit group in 1983 to build a course watched part of his dream come true.

City Manager Rod Swope signed a 35-year land lease with Peter Metcalfe, president of the nonprofit Totem Creek, allowing construction of a golf course on Douglas Island.

The project was officially launched with the city in 1994 when the Juneau Assembly issued a request for proposals to build a golf course on the city-owned land. But the plan was stalled before the Planning Commission for about five years because some residents were concerned that a golf course would hurt surrounding habitat.

Totem Creek eventually got a permit from the city with 49 stipulations and an Alaska Coastal Management permit from the state with 49 stipulations, mostly on habitat issues and water quality control.

"The project took 10 years. Some people still feel bittersweet about it," Swope told Metcalfe and many others who have made the project happen. "I congratulate you for your perseverance and patience."

Assembly member Johan Dybdahl reviewed the project when he was chairman of the Planning Commission.

"Very few projects take that long," Dybdahl said. "We went through a lot of reviews and public participation so we had this superior project. I just hope the golf course will be built before we run around there in wheelchairs."

Metcalfe said with the new lease, Totem Creek is ready to raise the $8 million for the golf course.

Totem Creek needs to raise the money in five years; otherwise, the lease won't go into effect.

Metcalfe said he is optimistic that the construction will start next year.

"It is going to be three years from groundbreaking to tee off," Metcalfe said.

Local golf players and even the owners of Mendenhall Golf Course welcome the news.

Gary Murdoch, board member of Juneau Golf Club, said the town is long overdue for a golf course.

"My dad thinks it is the stupidest sport - chasing a small white ball to a small hole," said Murdoch, who has played golf for 45 years. "It is fun to hit the ball. And it is a good opportunity to meet good people."

Jeff and Trina Jones said the new golf course would encourage more young people to learn the sport. The couple plays golf three to five times a week when the Mendenhall Golf Course is open.

Thomas and Koggie File, owners of the Mendenhall Golf Course, said they don't think the new golf course will affect the business of their nine-hole course.

"There will always be a demand for our type of golf," said Koggie, who has owned the business since 1983. "We are affordable. We have the location, the view. We have a lot to offer."

Parr, who is no longer on the Totem Creek board, said although he was disappointed that it took this long, he was happy that the project finally took off.

"Better late than never," he said.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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