Cherokee Country Club has proposed a multimillion-dollar renovation to its golf course and clubhouse facilities in Westport, to improve the club’s playing turf and make it more desirable to area golfers.
The project has called for improvements to the property’s drainage and irrigation systems, regrassing the golf course with higher-quality turf, reshaping its landscape, repaving cart paths and redesigning the golf course to enhance playability, as well as upgrades to the club’s practice facility. Initial construction costs have been estimated at $20 million to $25 million.
But the renovations could come at an even higher cost to the environment.
According to a disturbance application filed with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in April, the project would impact 9.82 acres of wetland and waterways at the site.
Approximately 6.19 acres of waterways would be dredged, 5.49 acres of wetlands and 1.33 acres of shallow open water converted to upland, and 4.32 acres of wetland converted through grading and excavation. Sand fill obtained from the dredging would be added to the fairways, to raise the golf course by several feet.
The applicant noted that the project would also create 3.19 acres of wetland, through excavation of uplands. Yet for some environmentalists, that’s not enough.
An associate dean at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at UW-Madison, and former president of the Madison Parks Commission, Bill Barker noted that wetland areas are fragile ecosystems developed over long periods of time and shouldn’t be disrupted for commercial gain.
“Why? So a golf course can be expanded with affordable access to a sand and gravel deposit?” stated Barker, arguing that the proposal was a “terrible” idea. “We can’t say we’re concerned about the overall ecological health and water quality of the Four Lakes and allow this kind of ill advised development in the watershed. We have enough frickin’ golf courses.”
Proponents of the project have noted that, as part of its renovations, Cherokee would construct ponds that allow for the recycling of water thus reducing the amount of pollutants entering the chain of lakes.
“This isn’t a new or expanded course,” said Madison Audubon volunteer Kyle Lindemer. “They are staying entirely in the footprint of what they currently own. They are making improvements. The largest of those improvements will be the reduction of phosphorus and other pollutants into the Yahara.”
Wisconsin DNR has requested more information to make a decision.
The agency issued a notice of incompleteness to Cherokee owner Dennis Tiziani in late May, notifying him that it needed additional information as to which alternatives to the proposed wetland fill had been considered.
“Wetland permits require that you demonstrate you have avoided wetland impact where possible,” the notice states, “and that you minimized wetland impact to the greatest practicable extent for the purpose and need of your proposed project. This means that you must show that you have used and considered all practicable alternatives where possible that can completely avoid or minimize wetland fill for your proposed project.”
Tiziani has been given 30 days to respond.