Despite vocal opposition from residents and accusations of ignoring citizen input, the Wichita City Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday to create a master plan for the redesign and development of L.W. Clapp Golf Course in Southeast Wichita. New development ideas for the park as suggested by Tory Houtman, the director of Wichita Park and Recreation range from an amusement park, aquarium, and restaurants. There was no mention of how much money a redevelopment of the existing golf course would cost.
At the meeting, every member of the public that got up to speak was against the closing of the golf course.
Candia Smith said she attended many local committees and advisory meetings regarding the closure of the Clapp and found there to be a distinct bias toward closing the course.
“What I observed must be the meaning of a steering committee. The input phase was manipulated not to allow that four letter word to be uttered, instead we were passively steered away from any mention of golf and instead told to think big,” said Smith.
Cindy Renard echoed the sentiment that those living in the area were actively encouraged to dream big about ways to redevelop the park.
“During this engagement, [city] staff has squelched any discussion of golf and that people were told to think big and ask for the moon, but not to keep your historic, cherished little municipal [golf course],” Renard.
Houtman said the main reason the city wants to close to the park is lack of revenue and increased costs. Clapp golf course is operating at only 45% of its capacity with operational losses of more than $800k from 2011-2018. However, Renard noted that the course was doing fine until recent changes.
“Clapp has only been in the red under this current administration. This course is not the cause of the golf divisions woes but rather the victim.,” said Renard.
Those who want to see the golf course left as-is are frustrated at what they see is city government bent on making changes where none were wanted.
“When the plan wasn’t looking big enough, the committee was told to go home and google bigger destination parks. Whoever asked for one in the first place?” Smith continued, “It’s my neighborhood. I never heard from anyone who wanted or thought one would be successful in this location. Now the property is listed as an opportunity zone. Opportunity for who, I ask?”
L.W. Clapp Park is in the district of City Councilman James Clendenin (District 3). He spoke about the endeavors to steer the development ideas toward activities other than golf.
“This was steered to; what else can Clapp golf course be? Because we already know it is a golf course. Golf has worked out there; it is not doing the best right now.”
The neighborhood surrounding L.W. Clapp park has experienced several park and pool closures. City Councilman Brandon Johnson expressed his hope that Clapp would be redeveloped as a destination park.
“I hope through the disappointment of closing the course that we can find a way to make that a destination through the concepts or other ideas for the surrounding community.”
For many in the community, L.W. Clapp was a destination as a golf course. Dale Goter discovered this during a round of golf at Clapp on Monday.
“The parking lot was nearly full. The person behind the counter was telling the person on the phone that the tees times were consumed throughout that morning,” says Goter. “Made me wonder, is this really such a bad resource?”