Wrangell’s popular community golf course has struggled to make its land lease payments in recent years. The course sits tucked against the water just south of the airport on state land. Now, the borough manager has proposed a solution: could the local government take over the land?
Wrangell’s 9-hole golf course – Muskeg Meadows – is a place to, yes, play golf and disc golf, but is also a gathering place for walkers and runners, and it hosts many community events.
But the nonprofit Wrangell Golf Club has struggled to keep up with the lease of the land it sits on. The land is owned by the state Department of Transportation, because the course is nestled up against the southern end of the island’s airport runway. And DOT isn’t keen to give it up.
Mayor Patty Gilbert related a conversation with a state official about a potential land transfer at an assembly meeting in late February: “It’s DOT-owned land adjacent to an airport. I asked her what the possibility is that they would transfer it to the city. And I think she laughed at me,” she concluded, laughing herself.
The land is required to be re-appraised every five years, and DOT charges Muskeg Meadows a percentage of that appraised value for the lease.
Borough manager Jeff Good explained that paying for an updated commercial appraisal this year and the corresponding lease payment could cost upwards of $12,000 – a strain for the nonprofit.
Good is also a volunteer board member at Muskeg Meadows. And he suggested that the borough take over the land’s lease from the course, then sublease the land back. While DOT has to charge a private entity like Muskeg Meadows to lease the land, it’ll cost Wrangell’s government nothing. Plus, the land won’t have to be re-appraised.
“There would be some paperwork that would have to be done as far as figuring out how the real property works that’s on the properties – the stuff that’s there permanently – that has to be transferred over to the city and then what the liability of the city would be and how we would cover those liability costs,” Good explained.
Once the lease is transferred to Wrangell, the borough would be free to sublease the site back to Muskeg Meadows without DOT needing to be involved. It’ll come at no cost to the borough, and save Muskeg Meadows money in the long run. Good says any fees during the lease transfer process will be passed on to the golf course.
Assembly members were all for the idea.
“I’m very interested in this,” stated assembly member Ryan Howe. “I think the golf course has gotten to the point where it’s not just a golf course now, it’s like a walking path or running path. It’s a recreational thing that the city really benefits from.”
Assembly member Bob Dalrymple also wondered if the golf course management could be made a more formal part of the borough. Right now, they’re totally separate entities.
“I also support this,” Dalrymple said, “This is a key component of a borough, basically, it’s one of the heart-centers of it all.”
Mayor Gilbert also pointed out that the primary goals she’s set for the borough since coming into office last October are to focus on economic development and infrastructure: “And I think this fits nicely into economic development. We want to maintain that golf course and want it to succeed.”
Two weeks after initially floating the idea, at a March 14 assembly meeting, Good said there’s been progress towards working out a transfer – Muskeg Meadows’ board held a meeting and approved transferring golf course properties to the City and Borough of Wrangell, which will allow the borough to take over the land lease.
Good and Wrangell’s economic development director will then come up with a long-term lease agreement with Muskeg Meadows so it can resume control over the buildings and fairways and continue operating the community’s golf course.
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