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Golf course plan spurs debate

Jackson County residents voiced suspicion Wednesday over a proposed golf course in Ashland that might use property designated for the Bear Creek Greenway.

I don't believe you have to give away public lands for private use, said Ra Wollenburg, who is part of Concerned Citizens and Stewards, a local group opposed to the golf course.

About 75 people turned up at an information meeting at the the Ashland Public Library, where the public could ask questions of developers, county officials and Bear Creek Greenway representatives.

Ashland resident Lynn Spillman objected to the format of the meeting, which he said didn't provide enough information. You've asked us to make comments, but we're not very well informed yet, he said.

The proposal calls for creating a 170-acre golf course between Highway 99 and Interstate 5 on Billings Ranch that would use land designated for the Greenway that runs along Bear Creek. Developers want to lease 9.2 acres of county property and build a bridge on it to allow access to the fifth hole.

— Wollenburg pressed developers to see if they had thought about scaling back the size of the course to take out the Greenway.

But Mike Peru, who represents the Billings Ranch Golf Group, said a smaller course wouldn't command the kind of revenue that would make the development profitable. Golf courses are not that profitable, he said. This one would be somewhat profitable.

Wollenburg said salmon are finally coming back to tributaries of the Rogue River, but developments like this would threaten their return.

Roger King from the Rogue River Guides Association said he was also concerned about steelhead and habitat that could be affected by pesticides and fertilizers used on the greens.

Even though the developers said this wouldn't happen, King said, I heard that before in California and look what's happened to their streams.

But Peru insisted there would be no pesticides that would make their way into the creek because of swales and other methods of capturing runoff.

He said the development would help bring fish back upstream because it would take up to 2.1 million gallons a day of treated effluent to irrigate the greens.

This would give the city of Ashland access to at least 830,000 gallons a day in in-stream water rights that would boost flows into Bear Creek and cool water temperatures.

Peru said that if the land isn't converted into a golf course now, it will eventually become a housing development as the city expands its boundaries.

You can't get a better use of that land for this city, he said.

In some of the public comments, Ashland resident Richard Fergen stated golf courses are good for the economy and are a boon to wildlife.

Karen Smith, Jackson County's Greenway coordinator, said that if the developers satisfy all the county reviews and other environmental concerns, I think it could be a benefit to the community.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail