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'Stay The Course' - Harrisonburg Golfers Defend Subsidies

Calvin Pynn

The Heritage Oaks golf course has been a contentious topic in Harrisonburg over the past two decades.  An online petition has more than 1000 signatures demanding the city stop subsidizing it, but on Sunday hundreds of supporters took to the course to show they want it to stay. WMRA’s Calvin Pynn reports.

*Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly portrayed the comments of Laura Measell.  We have updated the story to reflect the correction.

[Sound of crowd gathering and walking along the course]

The Heritage Oaks golf course has operated at a deficit since it was built and has lost more than half a million dollars annually. Despite growing disapproval among city residents, about 375 supporters showed up Sunday afternoon to keep it open.

Credit Calvin Pynn
Bob Lewis is a Heritage Oaks member.

Heritage Oaks member Bob Lewis says closing the golf course would cut off a revenue stream for Harrisonburg’s Parks and Recreation department.

BOB LEWIS: If you close the golf course, you cut the deficit by eight percent, but you lose 62 percent of the revenue. If anything, they should be begging golfers to come out here and keep it going. It’s the only one that makes money for the city.

The rally was organized in response to a movement calling for city council to stop subsidizing Heritage Oaks.  A petition started by former mayor and city councilman Kai Degner has amassed more than 1,000 signatures. The city closed the golf course in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic but has kept the walking paths open.

Credit Calvin Pynn
Heritage Oaks supporter Laura Measell

Supporters walked the paths in golf attire with clubs in hand and signs on display. City resident Laura Measell says its all about providing people a choice.

MEASELL: I support the choice of people to do what they want to do. While it doesn’t make money for the city, no Parks & Rec Department is tasked with making money for the city.  It’s an amenity they provide the citizens.

City Council will hold a work session Tuesday night to discuss the proposed 2021 budget, which includes funding for Heritage Oaks.

Calvin Pynn is a radio reporter, writer, and photographer based in Harrisonburg, Virginia.