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Hawk Ridge, and a solution

It’s been a few weeks since the owners of Hawk Ridge Golf Course informed the public they would be closing down at the end of this month, citing a massive increase in their water bill by the City of Wichita Falls.

And it was massive. From annual water charges around $2,000 to approximately $60,000 after a “faulty” water meter was replaced, according to the city’s Public Information Coordinator Carla P. Bolin.

You could tell how helpful the City of Wichita Falls was going to be on the subject as Bolin said, “Unfortunately, the reality is that if this problem had been detected earlier, it might have meant an earlier ending for Hawk Ridge.”

She further noted, “The City never intended to force Hawk Ridge to close its operations, but we have an obligation to charge consistently for treated water to all customers receiving those services, according to City Manager Darron Leiker.”

Ok. I can see that attitude as being acceptable. But, from another angle, I’d say that Hawk Ridge is a business that attracts revenue from area golfers and puts tax money into the city’s coffers, much like the new businesses the City of Wichita Falls is willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in incentives to attract.

You would think the City would try to work out some kind of compromise with Hawk Ridge owners to keep them afloat.

It doesn’t help that Hawk Ridge is in direct competition with the City’s new Champions Course, formerly Weeks Park. A big chunk of change has been put into the remodeled municipal link. Heck, last summer they were willing to put $250,000 of unbudgeted money into sodding the course just to be ready in time for the Junior T/O Tournament.

But not enough community spirit left, apparently, to help Hawk Ridge stay in business.

The problem with Hawk Ridge, according to Bolin, is the course can only use treated water at $3.22 per 1,000 gallons used, as opposed to raw water (used by Champions Course and Wichita Falls Country Club) at 29-cents per 1,000 gallons used.

That problem, said Bolin, is all geographical. Existing lines for raw water run through those two courses off of Midwestern Parkway. But, to run a new raw water line across the Wichita River to Hawk Ridge “...would cose millions.”

On a sidebar note, the City has provided for years treated sewer water for the golf course at Sheppard AFB for pennies on the dollar. There has been no mention of the City running a line of that stuff to Hawk Ridge, which probably wouldn’t cost millions of dollars since it doesn’t cross the Wichita River.

I was more than a little disturbed by the seeming lack of compassion by the City of Wichita Falls, and more of a helping hand extended beyond waiving late charges and allowing the Hawk Ridge owners to pay out the past due amounts.

Bolin also asserted that Hawk Ridge isn’t really in competition with Champions, because the two courses cater to (paraphrasing) “two different groups of golfers,” which I can only assume as one group being Redneck Hackers, and the other Elitist Scratch Golfers.

I must have a multi-personality disorder, because I can be either one, depending on the mood.

Many golfers around here can play that game, too, and many have spent their dollars at Hawk Ridge because of its convenient location as opposed to other area courses.

My own dad set us up with a family membership when we moved to Iowa Park in 1969 and it was known as Skyline (leased to Wade Flatt, former Times and Record News production manager, from the G.A. Lewis family). It was also known more as a family place, with a huge swimming pool, pool house, and a super grill that turned out some of the best cheeseburger baskets in North Texas.

A good summer day for Kevi started with nine holes of golf, an hour in the pool, nine more holes of golf, a cheeseburger basket and 30 minutes in the shade, capped by nine more holes of golf.

Years later, Skyline was sold to Jack Malone and became La Vista. Malone did much work on the course, but had to sell the course back to the Lewis family when his wife came down with cancer.

By then the swimming pool had been filled in and the pool house demolished. The Lewis family decided to discontinue memberships, which had grown to over 350.

They also changed the policy of golfers using private carts.

Enough was enough, and Dad, plus several other former members, said “adios” and moved their business down the road to River Creek.

Hawk Ridge came around eventually to the current owners, and they put not only an infusion of much-needed money and improvements, but their own muscle and sweat.

So it’s a shame today, despite their efforts, they can’t get more consideration from the City of Wichita Falls.

My solution?

The City of Iowa Park has entered into agreement with a local family to build a golf course off of Wigley Road west of the city.

The Hawk Ridge owners could only wish Wichita Falls would offer the same incentives the City of Iowa Park has offered this family, including free water usage (non-treated) and land to develop for new homes.

I suggest that family (yet to be publicly-named) contact the Hawk Ridge owners (or the other way around), and find a way to share their combined resources of money, land, equipment, and other resources to finally make this new golf course a reality.

Even during these tough economic times, I think this project is worthy of pursuing.

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