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3 Reasons Why Decker Lake Golf May Not Be the Best Economic Driver for East Austin

Norr, via City of Austin
A rendering of the club house for the proposed golf course on Walter E. Long Lake, also known as Decker Lake, from architects Norr.

It's far from a done deal, but a golf course may be coming to Distict 1 in East Austin.

The Austin City Council is not ready to make a final decision on the course at Walter E. Long Lake proposed by Decker Lake Golf LLC, so in the meantime, several city committees are considering the proposal.

This week, the city's Economic Development Committee showed some support for the golf course, precisely because District 1 is in dire need of economic development.

The first reason why a golf course may not be the best engine for economic development in District 1 is that, if approved, the golf course would only create between 30 and 35 jobs.

"What we don't have is economics," says District 1 resident Barbara Scott, which is what she says is the district's greatest need. Thirty or even 35 jobs is not exactly an economic bonanza.

The second reason a golf course may not be the best engine for economic development in the district is that it's not compatible with the District 1 demographics.

Ericka Mendive is from Panama. She also lives in District 1. Speaking in her native Spanish, Mendive says her community is predominantly African American and Hispanic, with some white residents.

In 2010, only 23 percent of District 1 residents were white.

"Golf is simply not a sport that enjoys strong support among the residents of District 1," Mendive says. "Soccer would [enjoy that support], but not golf."

The third reason a golf course may not be the best engine for economic development in District 1 is that golf courses, especially high-end ones, provide all the entertainment in-house, which is good for resort guests but not for the community around the resort.

Golf courses typically don't bring money into surrounding communities.

"If [resort guests] are going to have a restaurant in the property, they don't need to go outside," says Teddie O'Keefe, a public relations consultant who represents golf courses nationally. And those are precisely the plans for the 735 acres that are being considered for the Decker Lake Golf Course.

So, what then would benefit the community at large?

O'Keefe says a golf course that promotes the creation of entertainment in the areas surrounding the golf course could make the money trickle down to the rest of the community. 

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.