Golf course tops Rough River discussion

Matt Lasley Reporter

November 15, 2013

The recent closing of the golf course at Rough River State Park topped the list of concerns voiced by citizens during the community discussion about the park on Tuesday, November 12.

Rough River State Park Manager Michael Ricks opened the discussion by quelling concerns about the park’s future.

“Is the park closing? No,” he said. “The future is good. The purpose [of this discussion] is to bring you up to date on goings on at the park and to answer your questions. The citizens of Kentucky own this park, and you should care.”

Ricks then turned the podium over to Commissioner of State Parks Elaine Walker whom said while parks serve as the economic driver in many areas of the state, but continuing financial trouble has caused issues in keeping open all park features.

Walker said the recent years’ economic downturn, declining guest services, and reduction in convention meetings have contributed to the parks’ financial issues, which have forced park officials to make “difficult” budgetary decisions.

State parks officials have been forced cut full-time personnel by 23%, as well as extra costs, including the nine-hole Rough River golf course, she said.

However, Walker said, “We are determined to turn this ship around.”

Walker said with budget cuts, Rough River has been able to keep all full-time staff at 37.5 hours a week.

In regards to the golf course, Walker said in 2009, 5,020 rounds of golf were played at Rough River, and in 2012, 3,391 rounds had been played, resulting in $61,000 being lost by keeping the course open.

The closing of the golf course raised several objections by those in attendance who questioned whether closing the golf course would actually cause more money to be lost than gained.

“We can’t pay $17.69 to everyone who plays golf,” Walker responded. “…In four years, that golf course cost us $200,000…We could either cut employees’ hours or close a failing [project].”

Walker said that Rough River cannot feasibly maintain the golf course alone, but park officials have looked into alternatives, such as reaching out to the private sector to possibly lease the land.

Walker said park officials have also considered opening new recreational activities on that piece of land, such as mountain biking trails or a disc golf course.

In addition, Walker said if any community members would like to draft a proposal that would allow for the park to re-open the golf course, she and the necessary officials would meet with them to discuss it.

“We are willing to work with the community, but we cannot open it ourselves,” she said.

Walker also recommended that concerned individuals speak with their local governments regarding the closing of the golf course to determine if action could be taken to re-open it.

Ricks, who will have been at Rough River for five years in January, then discussed improvements made to the park over the last four years, the costs of which totaled $413,000.

Ricks said over the last four years, $80,000 was spent on room renovations; $83,000 was spent on cottage renovations in 2011; $86,000 was spent on cottage renovations in 2012; $50,000 has been spent on the ongoing sidewalks project; $56,000 was spent on water and sewage projects; and $18,000 was spent on the internet and to help install a new wi-fi system at the park.

Also, Ricks said the a number of features at the park will undergo maintenance work through the winter, including the miniature golf course, which he said needs a “face-lift.”

Another venture the park is exploring to increase revenue is moving the marina, so it can remain open 365 days a year.

Walker said this project will cost around $1.35 million, but park officials have determined to complete it within the next six years.

“Moving it is a top priority,” Walker said.

In closing, Ricks said the future of Rough River looks bright.

“When you come back to this park in the spring, you are going to be impressed with what you see,” he said.

Walker agreed and said, “With community support, Rough River State Park is bound for greatness.”