Two virtual community meetings scheduled Monday and Thursday about the future of Hancock Golf Course have been canceled because too many people signed up to attend.
The city-led meetings were originally scheduled to allow nearby Austin residents the chance to share their desired operational goals for Hancock Golf Course, located in Central Austin about a mile north of The University of Texas campus.
"It's a crown jewel of open space in Austin," said Hugh Bender, president of Hancock Neighborhood Association. "Especially in Central Austin with Waterloo Park under renovations."
But at least 185 people—as of Monday morning—had signed up to attend both meetings, which originally started off as phone calls but were later turned into Zoom meetings, according to Bender. The city ultimately chose to cancel the meetings by early Monday afternoon because "the large group sizes would significantly limit dialogue opportunities for attendees in the online format."
"[The city of Austin Parks and Recreation Department] will be adding additional options for participation, focusing on small group meetings," the city statement read. "[The city] will reach out to neighborhood and community groups to schedule online meetings regarding the course operation proposal."
The golf course has been reportedly losing the city $115,000 per year from the general fund, and the city is considering enlisting a private operator to offset the cost of the nine-hole facility. That is one of three options for Hancock Golf Course recommended in a 2019 report commissioned by the city:
- Passive park: stop golf operations and convert to open space
- Modify the space: Invest $1.2M-$1.6M to transform course into city-operated golf learning center
- Private contractor: Enter into public-private partnership with private group to run and improve golf course
"Due to the initial costs of developing and maintaining a passive park or renovating the course, [the city] is moving forward with the third suggestion," the city website states.
The Hancock Neighborhood neighborhood Association hosted city parks officials back in February to initially discuss the proposals.
"[The city parks department] at that meeting got an eye-opener that people like it the way it is," Bender said. "And then a movement grew from that meeting to have open space—just convert it. It doesn't have to have soccer fields or anything."
The open space proposal has continued to gain support from neighborhood residents, Bender said. Such an idea may be gaining momentum based on the city's presentation it intended to deliver this week. The slideshow suggests a long-term "hybrid model" of golf and parks elements at Hancock Golf Course.
"Even with golf, passive park space is possible," the presentation states.
The community members have used the golf course during COVID-19 quarantine measures as a safe community meeting spot. Residents will have a chance to provide their feedback to the city at a series of yet-to-be-scheduled community group meetings. There will also be a new survey as part of the public feedback process, according to the city.
The smaller meetings may ultimately prove more beneficial in providing that feedback than the virtual meetings scheduled this week, Bender said.
"Given the immense interest, it's probably good just to circle the wagons and see if there's a better way," he said.
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