Richardson May 2020

CITY Golf questionedasessential activity as roundsat city’s Sherrill Parksoar

THE GOLF COURSE BECAME BUSIER THAN I’VE EVER

SEEN IT. EVERYDAYWAS LIKE APACKEDWEEKEND.

MISTY KEASLER, RESIDENT OF SHERRILL PARK

BY OLIVIA LUECKEMEYER

played a total of 8,345 rounds, a 37% increase month over month. The increase in play can be explained in part by the widespread closure of nearby courses in March and April, Magner said. Richardson resident Andrew Laska sent an email in late March to Mayor Paul Voelker along with several other city ocials asking why the golf course remained open while other recreation facilities were closed. In response, the mayor said golf requires minimal contact between players and is therefore a valuable escape opportunity for residents. “Golf diers in important ways from those recreation activities that have been ordered to cease operations during this crisis,” Voelker wrote on March 31. “Participants do not have to share equipment or break social distancing guidelines to participate, for instance.” To minimize contact between play- ers, the city canceled tournaments, closed the pavilion and limited golf carts to one person per ride. In his email, the mayor encouraged residents to report violations of social distancing guidelines by calling 9-1-1, but Keasler said police have enough on their plates. Fees paid by golfers at Sherrill Park act as a revenue source for Richard- son’s operating budget. In scal year 2019-20, golf fund revenues totaled $2.3 million. Keasler said keeping the course open undermined the city’s position that it is committed to attening the curve.

Relaxed rules around outdoor sports in Texas have sparked outcry from some residents who say Sherrill Park in Richardson is busier than ever before. The executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott on April 28 allows outdoor sports as long as there is no contact between participants. Addi- tionally, no more than four people can play at one time, according to the order. Guidance from the governor never explicitly prohibited golf, so some courses in Texas, including city- owned Sherrill Park in Richardson, remained open during the shutdown. City leaders have put in place safe- guards to reduce in-person contact, but residents who live near Sherrill Park say those eorts are thwarted by the sheer number of golfers turning out to play. Misty Keasler, whose home of six years backs up to the course, said shelter-in-place orders meant to discourage gatherings have instead brought golfers out in droves. “Every day was like a packed weekend,” Keasler said of the weeks that followed stay-at-home orders. “Golfers were kind of on top of each other.” The golf course has seen an uptick in rounds played over the last three months, Deputy City Manager Don Magner said. In February, golfers played 4,534 rounds. That number increased by about 34% to 6,087 rounds in March. In April, golfers

Sherrill Park is the city’s public golf course. (Makenzie Plusnick/Community Impact Newspaper)

Rounds played at Sherrill Park increased signicantly after residents were ordered to stay at home in mid-March. GOLF ACTIVITY DURING THE SHUTDOWN

4,534 rounds

February: March: April:

6,087 rounds

8,345 rounds

SOURCE: CITY OF RICHARDSONCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

“The city has decided that all of these other businesses need to be closed, but our business that is going to impact us should stay open,” she said. Magner did not address the revenue issue but said the decision to keep the course open is in accordance with ocials at various levels of government, including the governor. “The city is cueing o of Gov. Abbott’s guidance as well as the attorney general’s guidance and the county judge’s guidance that says you can do outdoor activities—golf is an outdoor activity—you just have to make sure you’re adhering to CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines,” Magner said. On April 11, the city announced the temporary closure of Sherrill Park. Magner said the decision came on the

heels of an April 10 news conference during which Abbott said courses can remain open as long as certain services, such as the booking of tee times, are done remotely, Magner said. “At the time we did not have the technology in place to be able to do that,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we were compliant, so we decided to shut down.” The city’s IT department quickly upgraded its booking technology, and the course reopened April 15. Then, on April 30, the city announced that putting greens, the driving range and the Pro Shop would reopen under revised guidelines. “We are keeping the golf course open because we have people in the community that consider it an amenity,” Magner said.

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