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Jack Nicklaus reps say South Park golf course could be a hole-in-one

It's a great place for a golf course. That's the evaluation of experts after touring a proposed golf course site next to South Park.

Lawyer and activist Kevin Gaughn wants to build something talked about for years, an 18-hole golf course on an industrial brownfield adjacent to South Park. The grassy, overgrown property was a dumpsite for Republic Steel. Now, it's low hills looking toward Lake Erie with a railroad line slashing across it.

Gaughan says experts from Jack Nicklaus' Nicklaus Companies were really impressed at the geography and the views from the site. He's looking for $40 million for that course, a major reworking of Delaware Park's course and a permanent endowment. Gaughan says he wants to raise private money, not public money.

"I don't believe taxpayers should have any burden in this project. This is a public amenity. I think the benefit to the city is such that we will be able to attract philanthropic and private funds and in that backdrop or in that context, at least, I can tell you I'm going to make the effort to try to gobble up as much as I can for the project," he says.

Olmsted Parks Conservancy Executive Director Stephanie Crockatt says that's her group's concern, the money for the project. She says there are economic development and tourism possibilities in the course, opening up land in South Park and taking advantage of planned improvements for the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.

"The Botanical Gardens is on the cusp of possibly having a new master plan. If we were to see the arboretum realized as one of Olmsted's Lost Landscapes and bringing that to fruition would be fantastic," she says. "If the South Park residents can get a signature golf course on a reclaimed brownfields, it would be fabulous, especially with Solar City coming in."

Crockatt says the Nicklaus people met with the Conservancy's Long Range Planning Committee and were enthused about a course here.

"They told us some wonderful Buffalo stories. They've even got some staff that have been in the Rochester, Buffalo and Cleveland area. So they are very familiar," she says. "They seem to have a lot of wonderful background with regard to brownfield golf courses. They showed us some examples of reclamation projects that they have done in other parts of the country. So it was all very exciting to see those examples."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.