STANWOOD — Golf may have taken its last swing at Kayak Point as an 18-hole course just up the hill from its namesake park.
Snohomish County Parks, Recreation and Tourism has released a Request for Proposals, commonly referred to as RFPs, for what to do with the 270-acre property just east of the popular shoreline park.
“This (RFP) is really less about golf and more about adaptive reuse,” said Tom Teigen, department director with Snohomish County Parks, Recreation and Tourism. “What other things could happen on the site?”
The decision comes after the course’s vendor, Access Golf Management, ended its operation of the golf course in October of 2018, citing an inability to meet its contractual obligations to the county.
Following analysis from some of the country’s top golf vendors and the United States Golf Association, the county began to explore other options.
“We know there’s folks that really, really want golf and I absolutely understand that, but from a financial sustainability standpoint and even environmentally, we just don’t see that being viable at this point,” Teigen said.
New ideas for recreation at the park have included disc golf, equestrian activities, mini golf, weddings and anniversary parties, rock wall climbing, adventure park elements such as zip lines and rope courses, and high-end camping. Also suggested have been golf-centric ideas, such as a golf learning center, leaving the driving range open or reducing the course to fewer holes.
The county is not limited to these ideas and is open to many more. Officials with the parks department hope to collaborate with neighbors and the community in reimagining Kayak Point.
“What we are committing to is working with the community as to what other usages might be,” Teigen said.
Last week, during a County Council administrative session, dismayed north county residents shared their concerns. They said the county could be more transparent and questioned how well the course was managed. Several said they feared an “unwanted social impact,” including a homeless encampment coming to Kayak Point if the golf course is converted to parkland.
“The county ran it into the ground, they sucked all the money out of it and now Teigen wants to just turn it into a park,” Pat Slack, a neighbor of the golf course, said days after the meeting. “I want to see the golf course stay. Period. End of story.”
The long-term financial viability of golf at Kayak Point first came under scrutiny in 2012. At that time Access Golf Management began questioning whether it could continue to pay the rental fee to Snohomish County.
Efforts to lower that cost, including a $70,000 reduction in 2016, were not enough as revenues were tight and the vendor claimed to be losing money on the course.
An $800,000 reinvestment at Kayak Point between 2014 and 2016 paid for specific improvements on the course and to its facilities. It wasn’t enough to make the course financially viable. Revenues continued to decrease and fees became too high.
“We realized at that point, that (investment) was not going to be near enough and it would probably have to have more of a substantial investment by somebody else,” Teigen said. “What we’ve found through the RFP process is there isn’t anybody who is willing to put 7, 8, 9 or $10 million into the course.”
Along with fiscal and environmental concerns, the county also considered if more people might use the land if it were not a golf course.
“Are there other things that could have some better access overall for the public to 270 acres of public land?” Teigen said.
This is the third Request for Proposals released by Snohomish County asking for suggestions or plans for the Kayak Point Golf Course since September of 2018.
After review of the other previously submitted proposals and analysis of the golfing population in the area, Teigen began to have serious conversations about recommending the county no longer continue traditional 18-hole golf at Kayak Point.
“Kayak Park down the street gets hundreds of thousands visitors a year, where this 270 acres up the hill, which is gorgeous, beautiful and serene, gets 25,000 visitors a year,” Teigen said.
When Kayak Point Golf Course was built in the 1970s there were fewer golf courses in the county. Since 1994 revenue has been in decline at Kayak Point as the number of golf courses in the county has doubled.
A golf course is not out of the picture yet. A plan could be submitted to revitalize the course during the RFP timeline. Teigen, however, does not foresee that outcome, citing a lack of interest from vendors and between 12,000 and 15,000 golf courses across the country that have folded over the last decade.
The RFP will be open for approximately three weeks before the county begins engaging with planners and the community on potential ideas. For now, the county has hired a local farmer to mow and hay the golf course while it remains closed.