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Major dispute on par with Amherst's decision to convert golf course into cemetery

The Forest Lawn Group

There was a big turnout at Monday evening's Amherst Town Board meeting over a major dispute to turn a golf course into a cemetery.

More than a half-century ago, the University at Buffalo dug up bodies buried on what was then converted into its South Campus, trucked those remains to university property in Amherst and dumped them into a pit.

That land is now the town's Audubon Golf Course. Supervisor Brian Kulpa is proposing to excise 30 acres of the course as a memorial ground.

That didn't go over well at the meeting, with some shouting they weren't sure the bodies were still there. The supervisor said the course will stay open this year while a task force studies the situation and what to do.

Finally, Kulpa blew up at comments from the audience and one speaker in particular.

"We listen to opinions. We listen to people say they don't care if they're playing over top of dead people. We listen to people say we would like to see a memorial. We listen to people say golf over all. We listen to people say, 'Hey, there are no dead bodies. This doesn't really exist.' I'm not going to sit here and listen to anybody criticize somebody else's opinion. Got it? The next person that does it, you're out."

There was a wide array of suggestions about what to do. One speaker told the crowd that Audubon is where people who can't afford one of the town's private golf courses can play. In a replay of an old rivalry, some others wanted to know how come the adjacent Town of Tonawanda has much better public golf courses than Amherst.

Mark Wakefield pleaded for regular guy golfers.

"It's the people who are successful, who attend those clubs and are members of those clubs. They should be able to use those clubs based on the success they've had in their lives," Wakefield said. "But there's something to be said for the public, the rest of us, the working the blue collar guys."

Kulpa said he's played golf and he has kids obsessed with the game. Georgine Tripodi went back to another sore point to many in the town, the fabled Westwood golf course.

"It was wonderful and the guys that take care of Audubon right now are the same guys that took care of Westwood," Tripodi said. "So if there is any way possible that we can go back to Westwood, I think the decision to not go to Westwood and not purchase Westwood many years ago was really stupid. You guys can't be blamed for that."

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