Developers of potential Westport golf course seek purchase option on city parcel

By David Haerle

The Daily World

The group interested in developing a golf course in Westport is asking the City Council for a purchase option on a parcel of city property.

Westport Golf LLC is working on a public-private partnership with Washington State Parks that would result in a golf course at Westport Light State Park.

The plan also calls for a small inn, pro shop, driving range and other amenities on the site, and that’s where the purchase option would come in, noted Westport Golf LLC principal Ryann Day in a presentation to the City Council last week.

“It’s becoming clear that owning a portion of the property is important to our investors,” Day said to the council during a Thursday afternoon meeting conducted on Zoom. “We’re running into the need (on the part of investors) to own the property where the buildings will be situated.”

Westport Golf LLC’s main parcel of interest is a 25-acre city-owned parcel west of Forrest Street. It abuts the state park land that would actually encompass the 18-hole, links-style championship-length course envisioned by the developers. There’s another 14-acre parcel across Forrest Street that could also be included.

Day emphasized that Westport Golf LLC was simply seeking an option on the land and current market-value prices, acknowledging that any decision on the project — which hinges on State Parks officials allowing the golf course to be built on part of the park’s 600-plus acres — is “likely 18 to 24 months away, if we’re lucky.”

At an open house last fall, Jessica Logan, an environmental program manager for State Parks, explained the environmental review process.

“We’ll be doing a deep dive to find out what we know, what we don’t know, and what we need to know,” she said, adding it is State Parks’ job to balance public access and recreation with environmental protection. That includes identifying the species of plants and animals at the park, both native and invasive, and taking the dozens of complex steps needed to conduct a thorough environmental review.”

“This is simply an option to purchase the land at a later date,” said Day, noting the option would become void should State Parks decide against the proposal. “We’re asking to set on current market values. … Time is of the essence.”

No valuation of the parcels in question was mentioned during the 20-minute presentation to — and short ensuing discussion by — the City Council.

Council members expressed their support of the idea of purchase option, but wanted the city attorney to look over the specifics of the agreement prior to possibly presenting it at the next City Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 30.

Mayor Rob Bearden told Day and the council that could happen.

“We hope to have this on the next agenda,” Bearden said to Day and those in attendance on the Zoom meeting.

The economic impact of a course at Westport Light State Park could be substantial for the city. Based on attracting golfers for a total of 25,000 rounds per year, Day has said some $30 million could be pumped into the town annually. Scores of full-time staff would be needed for the course, including dozens of caddies, which offers employment opportunities to the area’s youth. And, said Day, for every job inside there are three more for people “outside the gate,” in local businesses that could provide services to visiting golfers.

DMK Golf design based of Bend, Oregon, is the course architect, and designed a similar course in Bandon, Oregon — Bandon Dunes — which opened in 1999. Since then, it has become a major destination course, will host the U.S. Amateur in 2020, and has become a major economic force in the region.

And the idea of a golf course in a state park isn’t a new one either.

Lake Valley State Recreation Area and Lake Tahoe Golf Course are on land now under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Ringed by the High Sierra, it features a championship 18-hole, Par-71, 6,707-yard golf course. Its fairways, driving range and cart paths are used for snowmobiling and cross country skiing in winter.