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Final round of golf

Anger expressed at county for closure of Fort Steilacoom Golf Course

Golfers at the Fort Steilacoom Golf Course prepare to play what may well be their final rounds of golf on the course. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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There were eight men seated at the table; more stood behind and around it. All of them had one thing in common -- they enjoy playing golf at the Fort Steilacoom Golf Course.

The course sits on 105 acres adjacent to Western State Hospital in Lakewood. The land is leased through the Department of Natural Resources, and in 1971, Pierce County was directed to manage and operate the facility as a public course and park.

"This has been a wonderful benefit to the community," commented Army veteran Jim Regan. "I am not happy to see it end."

The nine-hole, 2,500-yard course will close Monday, Sept. 24.  Annual pass members and individuals with vouchers will be allowed access to the course until those expire Sept. 30.

The land will be returned to state control and a decision on what recreational activities will occur on the property will be made in October.

But a sense of frustration and anger about the decision to close the course will remain.

"The decision on the part of the county to close this course is a shame," said long-time golfer Larry Goff. "This course was ideal for seniors who cannot walk other courses, and this course was good for both beginner and experienced golfers."

The Fort Steilacoom course joins the list of municipal golf courses that are closing. Publicly owned courses in Bothell, Mountlake Terrace and Woodinville are shutting down as well.

"Pierce County always worries about revenue and not people," commented Larry Keller, another Army veteran.

"This course is ideal for older people in terms of accessibility and affordability," Keller added. "With the closing of this course, 30 percent of the seniors who play golf will never play again. It is a tragedy."

Pierce County will continue to operate and manage Lake Spanaway and Chambers Bay golf courses.

"The county," scoffed Mike Bristol, an Air Force veteran.

"It has never made improvements here; expenses for this course and the other two courses were not shared; the county has not spent money here and then it wonders why this course hasn't made money. We've always been the bastard step-child."

Bristol said that he had gone to county council meetings and testified that none of the improvements the county said it had made had been made.

Others in the small crowd clearly agreed.

"This course was killed by inattention," commented Allan Holbrook, a part-time course manager, to unanimous approval.

The talk died down, and the group soon got ready to play one of its final rounds of golf.

"Like I said, this is a benefit to the community, and it doesn't always have to make money to be a benefit. This course is community," concluded Regan.

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