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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Supervisors to Vote on 2 Golf Courses

Recreation: Revised plans for a public park near Moorpark and a Sherwood Country Club expansion will be presented.

August 08, 2000|MATT SURMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

County supervisors are set to vote today on two east county golf courses, which if approved could be a boon for golfers on crowded county courses.

The board is considering revised plans for two 18-hole courses--one at the private Sherwood Country Club and the other a public course at Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park in the unincorporated area north of Moorpark.

"Ventura County could use more [golf courses] in large measure because there is so much demand from outside the county as well as inside," said Tim Krall, vice president at Gold Tee Inc., a Simi Valley firm that worked on the existing Lake Sherwood course. Southern California "is extremely underserved," he said.

The county is counting on golf courses--other links in Camarillo and Santa Paula are in the initial planning stages--to generate money for the cash-strapped parks system. By its fifth year, the proposed Rustic Canyon Golf Course near Moorpark should raise about $300,000 annually, according to the county Parks Department.

This course would cover 700 acres of the 3,700-acre Happy Camp park, and would include a clubhouse, cart barn and maintenance building. This is greatly reduced from an ambitious plan proposed in 1988 for a theme park and conference center at the site, and later a 36-hole golf course. Both those plans were met with crushing public opposition.

Johnny Johnston, director of the county's General Services Agency, which includes the Parks Department, said his staff and the developer have been diligent to ensure that the latest design would not disturb sensitive habitat and that the course would be sufficiently profitable to help pay for upkeep on the county's 21 other parks.

"There is a demand for affordable golf courses, and we're looking for opportunities that also meet recreation needs," Johnston said. "You've got to make something somewhere, and you don't want to turn it into Disneyland."

Both east county courses have met opposition from environmentalists and neighbors.

"In principle, in this county there are plenty of golf courses. Is there really a need?" asked David Magney, conservation chairman for the California Native Plant Society. His group is concerned about an endangered plant, Lyon's pentachaeta, which grows on the property at Lake Sherwood.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," Roseann Mikos, a board member of the Environmental Coalition, said of the proposed Happy Camp course. "I want to unequivocally support this, but have some concerns."

Mikos said residents in the area are worried that camp trails could be affected, that traffic could increase at the entrance to the park, and that a golf course could affect the growth of some native plants. She said neighbors are concerned, despite assurances from the county, that the course could one day grow to 36 holes if it's successful.

"People are lulled to sleep because they say, 'Wow, this is better than what they proposed before,' " she said. "It's 20 million times better than what they've proposed before, but it doesn't mean . . . the public doesn't need protection."

Supervisor Frank Schillo said the Moorpark course has been designed with good intentions.

There's no grading planned for the course, he said. "I think they've bent over backward [because] it's very important to the citizens here."

The private course proposed as an expansion of the Sherwood County Club links would be a $100-million Jack Nicklaus-designed par-3 course surrounded by multimillion-dollar homes.

The initial plan was overhauled after complaints that it would remove too many oak trees, threaten wetlands and endanger plant life. The developer will now relocate only 100 trees, not 300, and will attempt to protect the Lyon's pentachaeta. The builder believes most concerns of the neighbors have been answered, said Frans Bigelow, executive director of the Sherwood Development Corp.

Neighbors outside the gates of Lake Sherwood are worried about additional traffic and whether the type of pesticides used on the golf course would contaminate their wells.

"They say 'no problem,' but we all know that things go down with gravity," said Mike Littleton, president of the East Carlisle Property Owners Assn., representing those whose property lies in the canyon below. "No one will argue that they're building junk. We just want to live in the canyon and enjoy it."

Magney of the native plant society said he is worried that a preserve the developer would set aside for the plant is probably inadequate. He is also concerned that developing the empty land could bring in nonnative species that could cause damage to the existing plants and animals.

"There has to be recognition that the natural environment has a right to exist."

There are seven daily-fee public courses in the county, and the proposed Happy Camp course is just part of a flurry of activity across the county.

Gold Tee also is planning to build a medium-fee course in Simi Valley. The city of Ventura is ready to pump about $16 million into renovating its two courses, Buenaventura and Olivas Park.

"This is the fastest growing sport," said Supervisor Judy Mikels. "We really don't have enough of them around. . . . The reality is that people who operate them do it for a profit. They won't build them if there's no demand."

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