FARGO – The christening for Ponderosa Golf Course near Glyndon, Minn., is generally considered to be 8-1-64. On Monday, the obituary was essentially written.
It will die 3-31-15.
It was for the most part a glorious life that included a couple of major facelifts amid some of the most beautiful acreage in the Red River Valley. But on Monday, the Minnesota State University Moorhead Alumni Association, during its annual board of directors conference call, reiterated its stance that it will not renew the lease to Valley Golf Management, which operates the course. It will expire March 31.
“This is the last gasp right here,” said Don Johnson, one of the co-owners of VGM. “I think it’s over. We can’t fight them anymore.”
The news, Johnson said, brought a tear to his eye, not because of his company not being able to operate a golf course, but the effect it will have on area golfers, especially the youth. He pointed to members of the Dilworth Glyndon-Felton High School team, who were able to play the course for free.
“I feel sorry for the kids,” Johnson said.
It brings to an end a decades-old battle between golf and education.
The university says it needs additional land for its Regional Science Center to accommodate a grant request to the state of Minnesota, which is still in the process of being finalized. The MSUM request is for $527,760 and was made to the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which is considering 152 proposals totaling $126.3 million with those funds being available this July.
“Right now, the grant application is working its way through St. Paul, “said Dave Wahlberg, MSUM executive director for communications and marketing, referring to the state capitol, “and that will be a springboard to new and exciting research and educational opportunities at the Regional Science Center.”
The grant was made known last summer, but state Rep. Paul Marquart, D-Dilworth, met with MSUM officials and the Minnesota DNR asking if all 160 acres were needed for the grant study. Marquart asked if the long-term ecological recovery study could be done for 130 acres instead, thus saving enough land for the golf course to operate for at least another year.
“The person in charge said whatever acreage I have, I can do the study,” Marquart said Monday. “Now, would it be nicer to have the whole area? Yes. Can the study take place without that entire area? Yes.”
But Marquart said it’s looking “slimmer and slimmer” that a compromise can be reached. He said MSUM President Anne Blackhurst “has always been very forthright with us but it just seemed like the foundation was unwilling to budge from their position to get out of the golf business.”
The MSUM Alumni Association is in the process of gifting the land to the university, but that hasn’t officially been turned over because the full MSUM Board of Directors hasn’t met yet, Wahlberg said.
That land is coveted by the Science Center because of its “bluestem prairie.” Agricultural use has swallowed a large part of those native grasses over time.
The golfing community counters with the 12,000 to 15,000 rounds of golf played annually at Ponderosa, especially for rural golfers in the Highway 10 corridor from Dilworth to Hawley. VGM has been operating on a one-year lease basis. Marquart said there’s a concern with the D-G-F golf team on where it will practice.
The non-renewal did not blindside VGM, which was told last summer that if the grant is approved it would not renew the lease. Ponderosa has successfully fought off attempts to shut it down since the 1980s. Still, reality set in on Monday.
“It’s a big disappointment,” Johnson said. “I’m disappointed in Moorhead State, really. What was it, 30 acres that we needed? They can’t give that up for the community? That’s what bothers me. They’re devoted to science but a little compromise wouldn’t have hurt. Evidently they don’t’ think that way.”
Johnson said it will probably take a couple of months to sort out the course inventory. VGM will sell its 44 golf cars. Johnson hopes to work with RDO Equipment Co. on the maintenance equipment. There is also a barn and garage to deal with.
“There’s a lot of stuff to go through,” Johnson said.