RP tees up Foxtail pedestrian issue
Questions arise as to whether restrictions can be placed on pedestrians walking on city-owned course
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By Jud Snyder  October 25, 2013 12:00 am

When you live in a city with two golf courses in its borders, problems tend to grow as the city’s population grows. This is what happened in Rohnert Park. It wasn’t much of a problem 20-30 years ago when new homes in D, E, and F sections were built along the fairways of the former RP 18-hole Municipal Golf Course. Homeowners liked the green landscaped back yards somebody else took care of. 

Now it’s Foxtail Golf Club. It has two 18-hole courses and is still owned by the city. CourseCo, a Petaluma golf management company, runs them.

The problem is pedestrian accessibility. The golf courses aren’t fenced, there are no  gates for admission, and both courses, North and South, are easily reached by hikers, bicyclists, parents with kids in strollers, scooters or baby carriages, and the problem isn’t diminishing. Happily, there’s not enough concrete on the courses for skateboarders.

Tuesday night, Oct. 22, the city council voted unanimously to send the problem to its Golf Course Oversight Committee and report back to the council with recommendations.

A staff report from John McArthur, public works director gave the council three options: restrict access at all times to pedestrians; restrict pedestrian access during peak periods and no restrictions to pedestrians. All three options have drawbacks.

In order to restrict access, both courses would have to be fenced. No one wants this. What are “peak periods” on a golf course. True golfers tee off at dawn’s early light when dew is heavy on fairways and putting greens or finish at sunset when flashlights have to be used on the 18th green and all times in between.

The council was aware Foxtail has a staff of marshals on the courses to keep players moving and advise on golf rules when needed. But marshals have no legal priority to ban pedestrians, just advise them to leave as quickly as possible.

McArthur recommended the council should tell the oversight committee to discuss the problem and report back with recommendations. The Parks and Recreation Commission will also discuss the matter.

Councilwoman Gina Belforte said, “Pedestrians are a daily occurrence here. Either walking or bicycling, kids on tricycles and moms with baby carriages. This brings up liability issues. I don’t want to put up gates or fences, it would destroy the pleasant view from city streets.”

“I’ve heard pedestrians arguing with Foxtail marshals,” said Mayor Pam Stafford.

“Most people know the golf courses are owned by the city and they have a right to walk on them,” said Vice-Mayor Joe Callinan, an avid golfer. “Marshals are not the answer. Warning signs are the first step, but we can’t fence them off. I really don’t know what the answer is.”

“It’s a crazy situation – people in Rohnert Park can walk on public golf courses,” said Stafford. “We need to restrict it. People are not looking at it as a golf course.”

“Do we as a city, have a right to exclude non-golfers from city-owned property?” Councilman Amy Ahanotu asked.

“My advice is yes, you do have the right to regulate. City staff could provide some regulations,” said City Attorney Michelle Kenyon.

Councilman Jake Mackenzie said the best choice “Is to approve the report and send it to the oversight committee.”

Callinan made the motion to adopt McArthur’s report and send it on to the oversight committee. The vote was 5-0.

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