TREASURE ISLAND — The city is moving ahead with efforts to reimagine its Treasure Bay recreation complex.
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Whether it will be able to afford to keep its nine-hole, par-3 golf course is still up in the air.
At a recent public forum to look at design possibilities for the gulf front property, a number of residents said they did not want to see the golf course eliminated.
Two design concepts presented by the University of South Florida, which is assisting the city, featured amenities including an amphitheater, walking and bike trails, pavilions, shade canopies and a fishing pier.
City leaders said they wanted ideas on what could be included on the property besides the golf course, which is currently not financially sustainable and would cost $1.4 million to revamp.
"This has nothing to do with keeping the golf course or not; no decision has been made on what we are going to do with the property," said Recreation Director Cathy Hayduke. "We just wanted to know what the property could look like without a golf course."
Mayor Robert Minning said while turnout for the meeting was good, it appeared people got the mistaken impression that some decision would be made then.
"This was an information-gathering session," he said. "A golf course is a very expensive amenity for the city. And unless we can come up with a way to make it pay, that is not the highest and best use of the property."
Newly elected City Commissioner Ralph Kennedy said the city had good intentions by holding the forum and soliciting community involvement, but also said the concepts "created a false narrative."
"Residents were not prepared to see the visuals," he said. "I think we got out ahead of ourselves. We should have gotten input and then come up with some designs."
Kennedy says the city is headed in the right direction by doing an analysis of its user fees and considering increasing them.
He also says the city needs a sales and marketing plan for the golf course to see if that would boost revenues.
City Manager Reid Silverboard said the city is working on a plan, and that residents will get another chance to voice their opinions at a second meeting to be scheduled in late April or early May.
While golfers are concerned about the potential to lose the course, Silverboard says the majority are primarily interested in keeping the property as open space with its serene and scenic views.
"Play at the golf course has been going down year after year," he said. "It has a loyal following, but the problem is several millions of dollars of improvements need to be made and that can't be financed with higher green fees."
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