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Higher fees urged at city golf courses

Teeing off at city-owned golf courses would cost more money under a plan the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is asking the Common Council to approve as quickly as possible.

The city is also likely to return to an earlier policy that charges suburban golfers higher fees for playing on city courses.

Season passes at the Delaware Park, Cazenovia Park and South Park golf courses would increase by nearly 14 percent for city residents, and 27 percent for golfers who live in the suburbs.

City residents would pay $210 for season passes, while suburban residents would pay $235. Last season, all golfers paid $185 for seven-day season passes.

The cost of a seven-day season pass for senior citizens would increase by 16 percent, to $175.

Daily fees for all golfers would increase by anywhere from 7 percent to 13 percent, depending on the day and their residency. Daily fees would range from $10 to $17, depending on the day, number of holes and residency of the players.

Fees have remained the same for a few years, said Thomas Herrera-Mishler, the Conservancy's chief executive officer and president.

"The revenues that come in don't cover the costs of operating the golf courses," he said. "The modest adjustment we're proposing should help to balance that out."

The higher fees are projected to raise between $35,000 and $50,000 annually. The increases are being proposed at a time when the group has improved maintenance, said Conservancy spokeswoman Joy Testa-Cinquino. The Conservancy has been managing the city's Olmsted parks and parkways since 2004.

"It's important to note that the courses have gotten better each year," she said.

South Buffalo resident Carl Baj frequents the South Park and Cazenovia golf courses. He said he believes the higher fees are reasonable, especially with the improved maintenance that has occurred in recent years.

"It's still not the Buffalo Country Club, but for the nominal fees that are charged, it's definitely worth it," said Baj.

For the past several years, golfers using city courses have paid the same fees regardless of where they live. Conservancy officials said the nonresident rate was abolished several years ago, a couple of seasons after Erie County took over maintenance of city parks. But the city has reclaimed control of its parks, and Herrera-Mishler said a decision was made to reinstitute the nonresident fee. Suburban residents make up about 30 percent of the golfers who use city courses.

Charges at city-owned golf courses would still be lower than fees charged at courses in suburban communities, Herrera-Mishler told the Common Council in a letter that defended the proposed increases. He said a season pass at Grover Cleveland Golf Course, a county-owned course in Amherst, costs $270. Season passes at several other golf courses in the suburbs range from $350 to $390, he said.

The number of daily golf rounds played at city-owned courses increased nearly 13 percent last season, to 58,276 rounds, said Dave Hoover, the Conservancy's golf operations manager.

Conservancy officials said they hope to begin selling season passes later this month, and they're asking the Common Council to hold a special meeting soon to approve the fees.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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