No cash means no golf course

Friday, April 11, 2003

Someone called this week about the pear trees that used to be along the downtown floodwall in my favorite river city.

The trees are gone. They were cut down, I am told, as part of a beautification effort.

I'm not sure how exposing a concrete wall can be considered an improvement. Perhaps the beautification wizards want us to form mental pictures from the stains on the wall -- you know, like seeing shapes in clouds.

Who knows. Maybe there's a cute collie or a weeping madonna on the wall that we've missed all these years because of those pesky trees.

What the person who called really wanted to know was this: Can cutting down the pear trees be taken as a signal that work is about to begin in earnest on the Amazing World Famous Downtown Golf Course and All-You-Can-Eat Catfish Buffet?

It's interesting how people jump to conclusions like that. The same thing happened when city crews blocked off North Main Street a while back to modernize the kink in the street. Some hopeful folks who have followed the Downtown Golf Course from its inception guessed the work was being done to upgrade the dogleg on No. 5.

Alas, such is not the case.

Like so many other worthwhile projects, the Downtown Golf Course needs cash.

It's hard to promote a good project when you have to rely on the charity -- and imagination -- of others to make it real.

For example, I've petitioned the River Campus Advisory Board to let proposed walking trails do double duty as cart paths.

You are well aware of my appeals to MoDOT to donate the old bridge for a driving range and crafts arcade.

I still think there's a way for judges and golfers to share the Common Pleas 19th Hole on the bluff overlooking downtown.

And let's not forget the brilliant idea of using passing barges on the Mighty Mississippi as movable greens for No. 14.

Right now, though, every shred of effort on the Downtown Golf Course is being devoted to what big-time developers call capitalization. In reality, it's more like dialing for dollars.

It may not have been the smartest thing to do, but I pretty much have put all my financial hopes into one basket. That's why I applied to a special program seeking the moolah to build the Downtown Golf Course.

Maybe you've heard of the program. It's called LSEFTB financing.

Under the LSEFTB concept, the city has to appoint a special commission made up of former school board members whose job is to protect what we've got and turn down any applications. In turn, the LSEFTB commission makes a recommendation to city fathers and mothers who know the best way to handle this kind of prickly deal is to never put it on the agenda.

So here we are.

I've got golfers signed up for tee times through 2014, but no Downtown Golf Course for them to play on. Some of them are getting a mite testy about my "I don't have any money" excuses.

I don't blame them. So far all I've done is make one promise after another, and all I've been able to deliver is another lousy column.

Maybe it's time to come right out and ask: Do you have any money you can give me? Keep in mind every household in the city will be saving $100 a year since voters this week turned down the water park, which wasn't even on the ballot.

If you can help, send cash -- just so we can keep the accounting on the up and up. After all, that's always been the aim of the folks who run LSEFTB -- Let Someone Else Foot The Bill.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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