The National Park Service is proposing to eliminate nine holes of its 36-hole public golf course in East Potomac Park--Hains Point--to enlarge picnic areas and playing fields on the popular peninsula south of the Jefferson Memorial.
Previous attempts to close part of the 60-year-old golf course, Washington's first public course and one of only two still in operation here, have been proposed in almost every decade since the 1930s, but dropped after opposition from a small but devoted group of golfers.
The Park Service also announced last week that it is now welcoming concession bids to operate Langston Golf Course on Benmning Road SE, closed last fall when its operators, golf pro Lee Elder and his wife Rose, ran into financial difficulties. Proposals to operate Langston must be received by the Park Service by Nov. 21.
Rock Creek Golf Course, which the Park Service also had considered closing last year, is now under new management and had a successful year, according to Park Service spokeswoman Sandra Alley.
The development plan being proposed by the Park Service for East Potomac Park, after more than a year of study and public meetings, calls for additional roads and parking areas, six new sports fields and nine additional acres of picnic grounds -- all in place of the nine-hole golf course closest to the western entrance to the park. The three remaining nine-hole courses would be upgraded.
The draft development plan also proposes a pedestrian bridge over the Washington Channel, a fishing pier and visitors' boat dock on Hains Point, widening the five-mile walkway around the peninsula, construction of a permanent tennis locker room building, and restoration of the 1930s tea house at the tip of the peninsula, where a large open area also would be retained as a site for a major future memorial.
The plan is scheduled to be presented at a public meeting to be held by the Park Service sometime in November. It also will be reviewed this fall by the National Capital Planning Commission and Fine Arts Commission.
Turning the nine-hole course into sports fields and picnic areas is proposed to provide "a more balanced distribution of recreational opportunities," according to the 22-page Park Service summary development plan. The present 36 holes occupy 65 percent of Hains Point but are used by only 16 percent of its visitors, according to Park Service surveys.
About 460 new parking spaces would be created, in addition to the 2,200 spaces now available on Ohio Drive, the perimeter road around the peninsula, and several short crossroads would be built to help eliminate the huge traffic jams that occur virtually every warm weekend of the year. One new road would cross near the tip, and a Y-shaped road would be built at the west end to provide access to the new sports fields and picnic areas.
Turning the golf course into playing fields and picnic grounds apparently would be the first thing done by the Park Service since it would cost little to do. The Park Service has no funds budgeted for East Potomac Park improvements, but construction of roads, paths and parking areas and restoration of the tea house -- now used for office space -- would be the top priority items when money does become available, according to the plan.