Fairfax City Council backs Ft. Ridgely golf course

FAIRFAX – After a passionate plea by Minnesota Rep.Tim Miller and Friends of Fort Ridgely members Loran Kaardal of Redwood Falls and John Fritsche of New Ulm, the Fairfax City Council unanimously approved a resolution supporting the joint partnership for the operation of Fort Ridgely State Park Golf Course Tuesday.

Miller, who hosted a tournament at the golf course that drew the Minnesota House Speaker, the Senate Majority Leader and a dozen other legislators in late August that raised $25,000, spoke passionately about the golf course.

Miller said he has “every belief” the Friends of Fort Ridgely, Nicollet and Renville County Boards of Commissioners will work together to open the golf course next spring.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced earlier this year it would close the golf course after July 4, then after Labor Day, which drew the ire of golfers, golf course, and park supporters.

“The golf course is an economic asset which I’m a big supporter of,” Miller said. “I see a future for small Minnesota communities. There are signs they’re rebounding. We have certain assets. One of those assets is Fort Ridgely and its golf course. I see people very active, willing to do the work to operate and manage it. The DNR wants no part of the golf course in the future. You have my full support and the support of your other area legislators including Rep. Paul Torkelson, the bonding committee chairman, to open the golf course next spring.”

Miller said a support resolution was needed from the City of Fairfax because the Friends of Fort Ridgely are not audited annually as the City of Fairfax is.

Miller said the City of Fairfax will be held harmless against any losses in the agreement that needs to be approved by all joint partnership entities and sent to the DNR by Nov. 1.

Kaardal said the business plan includes raising $100,000 to pay for golf course maintenance equipment and would allow golf carts on the course. “We’ll save the DNR $75,000 a year by taking over the golf course. We need to save it. We need to sell 250 golf course memberships at $250 each and raise the rest of the money with green fees. This is a very doable proposition.”

Fairfax City Councilman Ross Nachreiner said he talked to many residents about the golf course and got a divided response.

Fairfax Mayor Lois Gilles said there are many things that have to happen before the golf course is managed by the Friends of Fort Ridgely.

The resolution read that Minnesota has one of the nation’s greatest, most diverse park systems offering affordable recreational facilities and educational historic sites. In addition, Fort Ridgely State Park and golf course is essential today and increasingly essential for community vitality including economic development, afford and quality recreational resources and historical recreational value.

It added that the closing of the golf course will have an adverse effect on the area, cause a decline in park attendance and hurt our rural area recreationally and economically.

The city council viewed a Powerpoint building inspection report of the John Ornelas property at 25 1st St. N.E. City Attorney Aaron Walton said he would send a letter to Ornelas to update the property in 45 days or face penalties for the property’s unsafe condition.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.