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Cambridge City Council Approves Contentious Golf Course Policy Order

The Cambridge City Council unanimously passed an amended policy order Monday to study alternative uses for the Fresh Pond Golf Course.
The Cambridge City Council unanimously passed an amended policy order Monday to study alternative uses for the Fresh Pond Golf Course. By Ryan N. Gajarawala

The Cambridge City Council unanimously passed an amended policy order Monday to study alternative uses for the Fresh Pond Golf Course, in response to concerns from Cambridge residents regarding the original proposed policy.

The vote followed a public comment period of nearly two hours, in which more than 30 Cambridge residents voiced their opinions on the proposed policy order. Most of those who spoke said they opposed any reduction of the size of the course — which is also known as the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Golf Course in honor of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The original policy order — proposed by Councilors Patricia “Patty” M. Nolan ’80, Dennis J. Carlone, Quinton Y. Zondervan, and Burhan Azeem — calls for a study of the course to consider whether golf is the “best use” of the area and “if other uses are possible and should be considered.”

Some public attendees said they were worried that the course would eventually be converted from a nine-hole to a six-hole course, which they claimed would hinder its use. They added that a six-hole course would not meet regulations for holding tournaments.

“A six-hole, par-three course isn’t a golf course,” Lyn Ketterer, who coordinates a ladies’ league at the golf course, said. “It is a glorified, condensed chip-and-putt.”

Ann C. Roosevelt ’66, the president of the Cambridge Water Board, said that her board has authority over any changes to the course's use and added that modifications to the course would threaten the Cambridge water supply.

“The golf course acts as a buffer to protect the Cambridge water supply,” she said. “Adding any structures or repurposing for intense uses would reduce or eliminate that buffer.”

Andrew B. Schlesinger ’70, one of the residents who spoke in favor of the policy order, argued that the course was underutilized by Cambridge residents and that the land could be better used to address Cambridge’s affordable housing supply problems.

“The golf course occupies too much municipal space and benefits too few people,” Schlesinger said. “Exploring alternative uses for the 50-plus acres of the golf course seems to be a no-brainer in this fast-changing environment.”

Following the public comment period, Councilor Paul F. Toner proposed a substitute to the order specifying that normal golf operations continue uninterrupted throughout the study alternative uses for the land.

“I wanted to make it clear that we were not seeking to interfere with golf at the Fresh Pond Golf Course, but didn’t want to stifle conversations about additional uses it might be put towards,” Toner said in an interview with The Crimson.

Nolan said in an interview with The Crimson that she found the opposition to the initial order “disappointing.”

“I’m disappointed that the community of golfers didn’t see that we have to think about the entire city,” Nolan said.

Nonetheless, she said that the modified order was still “very close to what we were asking for.”

“[The order] really was saying, ‘Hey, there’s lots of possible uses for land,’” Nolan said. “Let’s understand what we can do with it.”

—Elias J. Schisgall can be reached at elias.schisgall@thecrimson.com.

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City PoliticsCambridge City CouncilCambridgeMetro