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Austin's Peter Pan Mini Golf is doing whatever it can to stay open

A mini golfer hits a ball with his two friends in front of a miniature pink Texas Capitol building.
Nastassja Collak
A complicating factor for the course? The state controls the land it sits on.

Peter Pan Mini Golf course, which is celebrating 75 years in business, is a source of nostalgia for many folks who grew up in Austin.

Known for its giant Peter Pan and T. rex statues, the course could close as the end of its lease approaches in March.

To avoid closure, the golf course's managers and community members are taking their efforts to the city, where they're finding support at City Hall and among many Austinites. A petition to keep Peter Pan open has more than 24,000 signatures.

Complicating things, the course sits on land controlled by the state, specifically the Juvenile Justice Department. The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, which is tasked with eliminating waste in state government, recommended the department appoint a third-party trustee to manage the land.

To this day, the owners do not know when that trust will be reassigned, and they have only seven months left on their lease.

A green and yellow T.rex statue surrounded by trees at the mini golf course.
Nastassja Collak
Along with a giant Peter Pan statue, a Tyrannosaurus rex has towered over the course and the nearby intersection of Barton Springs Road and South Lamar Boulevard for years.

“We're basically kind of a little bit in the dark,” said Julio Massad, who manages the course with his wife, Margaret. “We don't know where they are in the process, but they have not been able to communicate with us. Essentially, there's no timeline ... which obviously creates uncertainty.”

While they wait, Peter Pan is attempting to become a historic landmark in Austin.

“We resist change,” Margaret Dismukes Massad, daughter of one of the owners, said at a Historic Landmark Commission meeting earlier this month. “We keep it old school. Nostalgia is in plentiful supply at Peter Pan. Simply put, people love to step back and remember a time when life was simpler and Austin was perhaps a bit more weird.”

The commission extended its support for the effort to make the golf course a landmark, and the city attorney has confirmed Austin can make this a landmark.

“It's because even though the state has the lease, it's not its own,” Julio Massad said. “The city's attorney determined that the state does not own the land. They're acting as trustees. So, in that light, the city does have jurisdiction for zoning and to consider historic landmark designation. That was a key finding.”

Now, Peter Pan will have to wait to see which third party will hold its trust and whether the city will designate the property as a historic landmark.

It has the support of city leaders, including Council Member Zohaib "Zo" Qadri, whose District 9 seat covers the course.

"He was very, very encouraged and wanted to stay in the loop," Julio Massad said. "Incidentally, Mayor Watson's office has reached out to us. They've asked to meet with us. So we believe we have the tremendous interest of the the City Council and the Historic Landmark Commission to keep the fabric of Austin alive.”

An overview of the park with different obstacles and green spaces.
Nastassja Collak
Course managers say they don't know when they'll learn more about the park's fate.

Haya Panjwani is a general assignment reporter, with a focus on Travis County. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @hayapanjw.
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