The Brookings City Council is cutting its losses with The Claveran Group and going with a newly-formed firm to operate Salmon Run golf course.
Monday at its regular meeting, the council agreed to terminate the lease with the golf course management firm after 14 years of failing to turn a profit at the city-owned golf course, and instead sign on with Wild Rivers Golf Management, owned by current golf course manager Ed Murdoch and former county commissioner George Rhodes of Brookings.
“We have great hopes for it,” Murdoch told the council. He was unavailable Tuesday for additional comment.
The popular golf course is located 3.5 miles up the south bank of the Chetco River, on 182 acres in the Jack Creek Valley.
Steve Muir, principal of The Claveran Group, notified the city that it would like to end the lease agreement it has held since 1998. The city and management firm are in the 14th year of a 60-year lease.
In those years, his firm has only made a partial payment on its lease, and come under fire for sub-par management of the course, including maintaining the edges of the bramble-strewn hillsides and conducting publicity to attract new golfers.
Under the term of the agreement, the city will waive any claims against The Claveran Group relating to the lease — including the debt owed for back rent to the city.
The council had discussed its options in the past two years regarding the golf course, and held informal discussions with other management firms, most of which declined to take over the operations.
Murdoch and Rhodes submitted a proposed lease agreement to the city, which calls for a five-year term — not the 60-year one penned with The Claveran Group — with an option for a second five-year contract when the first one ends.
Under the terms of the lease, Wild Rivers Golf Management will pay $20,000 a year rent with all revenue being held in a special fund to construct a permanent water source for the facility. The cost to get the water will be the responsibility of the company, and if they cannot, the lease will be immediately terminated. The time frame in which the firm has to obtain that water has not been determined.
Water was a conundrum for The Claveran Group, which obtained it from a nearby private well. The city would like to have a permanent, reliable source so it can better irrigate the greens and provide potable water to the clubhouse.
The new golf management company will also be permitted to build a 48-spot RV park on the golf course premises to enhance revenue and draw more people to the facility. Additionally, up to four permanent residential units will be permitted to be built, with only a golf course superintendent, security officer or caretaker living there.
Wild Rivers Golf Management must pledge all fixtures, equipment, inventory and other property as collateral in the event of a breach of contract or lease termination agreement, and will be required to sell, rent, store and/or repair golf equipment, provide lessons, rent golf cars, operate the driving range and sell clothing and supplies.
The firm must also maintain the premises in accordance with industry-wide standards for courses of similar size, location and economic conditions.
Brookings resident Tony Parrish, the only one in the audience to address the topic, told the council he has numerous concerns about the golf course and its new management.
He said it’s a “sweet deal” that the golf course gets to collect rents from the RV park and then only pays $20,000 in rent to the city; that sewer issues aren’t addressed; and that promises were never kept regarding a clubhouse or the use of resident golf cards.
The only structures built on site were a trailer and a tent, and golf cards, he noted, were supposed to fund youth golf programs.
“It’s been one disappointment after another,” Parrish said. “There’s not enough room for 18 holes — they’ve already abandoned several tees,” he said. “It’s not even a championship course; now it’s an executive course.”
He said less-than-stellar maintenance over the years has prompted some organizations to back out of tournaments held there.
“And I don’t think that new management is going to change,” he said. “The guy with the deep pockets has changed, but its basically the same people. A lot of questions need to be answered. It is not a good deal.”
It is, however, the only option the city has since elected officials are adamant about having a golf course as a tourism amenity, councilors agreed. The intention of this golf course is not primarily to make money, but attract tourists to town.
“I think this is the best path for it,” said Councilor Jake Pieper. “This is the only adoptable lease agreement that will work out. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we have.”
“I’m excited we have a deal,” Councilor Kelly McClain said. “Overall, it’s a really good thing.”
“To lose the golf course after millions were spent on it doesn’t make any sense at all,” Councilor Brent Hodges said. “No one else has stepped up and said, ‘I’ll run it; I can do it better than anyone else.’ I’d really like it to be successful. To lose an asset like that would be a tough one.”
Mayor Ron Hedenskog agreed.
“They took a raw piece of land and turned it into a nice golf course,” he said. “I’m sorry they couldn’t make a go of it.”