Citizens discuss MNGL optionsCity leaders started looking for answers to what should be done with Mississippi National Golf Links from citizens this week.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
City leaders started looking for answers to what should be done with Mississippi National Golf Links from citizens this week.
Roughly 200 people packed a meeting room at the Red Wing Public Library Tuesday evening to share ideas and ask questions about the course.
MNGL operator Wendell Pittenger announced in a September newsletter to members that he would close the course at the end of last month. Equipment is now being auctioned off. The city filed a complaint in October accusing Pittenger of a breach of contract. Questions also still remain on issues such as a bond payment overdue on the course.
Until the litigation, bond payment and other issues are worked out, the next steps are still unclear, council member said. But they still want to get a long-term picture of what citizens want to happen with the course and land.
At Tuesday’s meeting, many attendees who spoke highlighted the benefits of the course to the area and encouraged the city to keep MNGL open somehow.
“The future of Red Wing is in recreation, in tourism,” said Leigh Nelson, owner of Welch Ski Village.
Others who spoke also encouraged more advertising and promotion emphasizing Red Wing as a golf destination.
The Red Wing Municipal Golf Corporation had a representative, John Kjolhaug, who noted “we feel we are providing a viable option to the city.”
The nonprofit group is suggesting a plan where the city would maintain ownership of the course but the nonprofit would operate it and costs would be covered by users. The group started publically discussing its idea when the city was talking about selling the course last year.
Others said the recreational use of the land, whether that includes golf or not, will be key. Chap Achen, president of the newly formed Friends of the Bluffs group, said this is a chance to open the area up for new activities.
“This is a massive opportunity to expand the recreation area,” he said.
Many who spoke said collaborations — such as between MNGL and the Red Wing Golf Club — could keep the course viable and help it succeed financially.
A smaller but still vocal group of attendees at the meeting said they do not want their tax dollars used for the course anymore. The city budgets about $150,000 to $200,000 each year for operation and capital work at the course, Finance Director Marshall Hallock said.
There were a variety of ideas tossed around Tuesday for the course, but there was at least one theme, according to Council member Lisa Bayley.
“What I’m not hearing is anyone say they want the city to run it,” she said toward the end of the night.
She and Mayor Dennis Egan, who moderated the meeting, said they hope to hear more ideas in the future. Bayley said the city is “hoping to have opportunities for concrete proposals” and Egan noted he is committed to having community meetings on this and other important issues in the future.
Council members will meet in another closed session Monday night to discuss the lawsuit and future options, which could include settlements. City staff also has said goals for the future of the course will be discussed publically during a future City Council meeting.