Public Helps Brainstorm Strategies to Keep Hudson Mills Golf Course Open

By Melinda Baird,

Those worried that Hudson Mills Golf Course is closing at the end of this season can take heart after attending a public input meeting July 5.  Huron-Clinton Metroparks Deputy Director Dave Kirbach assured roughly 120 anxious citizens packed in the golf course’s starter building that staff is reconsidering its recommendation to close and repurpose the golf course.

Members of the Dexter Community at the Hudson Mills Golf Course Meeting expressing their concerns.
Members of the Dexter Community at the Hudson Mills Golf Course Meeting expressing their concerns.

“No decision has been made on closing Hudson Mills Golf Course,” Kirbach said to applause.  “We’re trying to find different ways to keep it running.”

In fact, a major reason staff organized the meeting (and will host a second of its kind July 19) was to gather public feedback on ways to save the course given its chronic underperformance.

Manager of Planning Nina Kelly said the Hudson Mills course at 4800 Dexter-Pinckney Road is the only one of the Metroparks’ eight golf courses in southeast Michigan to lose money.  In 2016, revenue for Hudson Mills (two-thirds of which is generated by taxes and one-third by customers) was $378,164 while expenses totaled $444,357, creating a deficit of $66,193.  Total rounds played were 15,686, roughly 8,000 to 15,000 rounds less than played at its counterparts.

Making things worse, roughly $1.3 million will be needed over the next five years to cover capital expenses outside of normal operating costs.  Critical projects include reconstruction of cart paths; replacement of golf carts, irrigation heads, and piping at the pumphouse; and moving of the fuel storage system from under to aboveground in compliance with federal regulations.

Kelly pointed out there are plenty of alternative golfing opportunities given the 51 courses, both public and private, within a 20-mile radius of Hudson Mills before handing the microphone over to citizens for input.

Many of those present suggested adding a driving range and instructional clinics to draw more business, while others proposed renovating the sparse starter building into a clubhouse/pro-shop.  Many also advocated for partnering with the school district to make Hudson Mills the home course of Dexter High School.

“Parents are where their kids are,” one proponent said, adding high school play could fill the gap between morning and twilight play.

Some suggested more aggressive marketing, promotions, fundraising and membership offerings, while others focused more on the need for a philosophical shift.

Longtime resident Paul Cousins said a change in staff’s expectations of Hudson Mills’ performance is needed given the population density compared to areas surrounding the Metroparks’ other courses.  Cousins argued that profits gained by the remaining seven Metroparks’ courses ought to supplement Hudson Mills if the deficit persists, if only because it is treasured by the community and boosts Dexter’s economy by way of gas, food and other purchases.

Another citizen encouraged staff to commit either way.  “I would like to see the management, if they decide to keep it open, stay very positive about the course.  It’s been rumored for years that it’s going to be closing, which has caused the school golf team to go elsewhere and caused leaks to leave,” she said.  “Once decided, there should be no more talk of closing.  Just go forward in a positive manner.”

According to national website, 97.4% of those who’ve played the course would again—the highest percentage among all Metroparks’ course reviews, one citizen observed.  Many described the walkability, wildlife, beauty, friendliness and accessibility to the average-skilled as assets unique to Hudson Mills.

A draft master plan for Hudson Mills Metropark containing a recommendation to close and repurpose the golf course was presented June 8 to the Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority Board of Commissioners, but the vote was delayed 90 days after a strong show of public opposition.

Kelly later said the recommendation was hasty and that further public input was needed, so the board allowed staff to extend its six-month, January to June, planning process.  A second public input meeting is scheduled for 6pm Wednesday, July 19 at Creekside Intermediate School.

The authority’s director George Phifer was recently placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation of an unrelated incident.

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