A plan to turn 735 acres of East Austin parkland into a high-end golf course will get a public airing this evening. The City of Austin is hosting a meeting on the proposal for Walter E. Long park from 4:30 to 7:30 at the Morris Williams Golf Course at 3851 Manor Road.
The city says the plan will bring jobs and tourist money to the east side. Under the proposal, developers would pay to build and maintain the course and give the city a cut of the revenue. That appeals to the Parks Department which doesn’t currently do upkeep on the land.
But there’s opposition. Some residents don’t think Austin should give up so much space to a costly sport that a lot of people don’t play. The parkland is in Austin's City Council District 1. Ora Houston, the front-runner for the District 1 seat opposes the plan and has asked the City to postpone a vote until after the new council is seated.
"It’s kind of like [how] we want to keep Barton Springs pristine," Houston said at a Parks and Recreation Department meeting earlier this year. "Those of us who live in that part of the town want to keep Decker Lake pristine, because we know as people grow, and the community grows, there’s going to be a need for additional parkland."
Houston's opponent, DeWayne Lofton, did not immediately return a request for comment, but did refer to it in a candidate questionnaire conducted by the Austin Neighborhoods Council.
"There is a PGA golf course coming to that area and I think the timing is perfect to look at repurposing the (Travis County) Expo Center," he wrote.
Brian Rodgers is a longtime critic of city development deals. His group Change Austin is organizing against the plan.
“They’re taking our parkland as an amenity for high-end hotels. Does that create economic development? Well, it does for the Marriott and the Fairmont," says Rodgers.
Austin City Council is set to vote on the proposal this Thursday.