Langara Golf Course's future to be debated by public in 2020

Once again, there's a debate over the future of Vancouver's golf courses.

But this time, a formal consultation process is involved, over a specific course — and it's being led by the group with actual jurisdiction over the city's courses. 

"This is something I don't think we've actually ever had a proper constructive and thoughtful conversation about. And it's also a conversation that's always initiated by people outside of the park point," said Vancouver Park Board commissioner Dave Demers. 

On Monday, the park board passed a motion from Demers asking for staff to "evaluate the full spectrum of realized and unrealized benefits of Park Board land currently used for golf."

It also asks that staff use those findings to inform a new golf strategy, "with public consultation to include at least one option that presents alternative park and recreation uses for the Langara Golf Course."

NPA commissioners John Coupar and Tricia Barker voted against the motion.

Why Langara?

Vancouver has six public golf courses, three full courses and three pitch-and-putts. They total around 200 hectares. Collectively around 230,000 rounds are played on them each year. 

But Langara is generally the least played of the full courses — with an average of around 50,000 rounds a year — and is also adjacent to the Canada Line, with the course entrance two blocks away from the current station. 

Because of that, Demers believes there should be a full conversation on whether a golf course is the best type of green space for the area or whether it could be a different type of park, particularly as more and more development happens along the Cambie corridor.  

"You can imagine the pressure that we add to our green spaces, the pressure to deliver a variety of services and facilities that can be used year round," he said. 

Justin McElroy/CBC

Longstanding debate

While this is the first time in recent history the park board will publicly consult on the future of one of its golf course, its far from the first debate. 

Periodically, the idea of converting a park or a golf course into affordable housing has been raised, and in 2018, city council asked the park board to considering different uses for Langara — but the park board declined to act.

"I know we've had park board people and many people in the community talking about track and field and an international competition facility that would be fantastic," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson at the time.

"We've had cricket and kabaddi people saying, 'why do we have no facilities in South Vancouver that the community can use?'"

Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung previously sat on the park board and is glad this review makes clear that only park and recreation services would be considered as alternatives. 

But she also pointed out golf courses provide around $3 million in profit to the park board annually, which fund other services. And that there's more to Langara than just 18 holes. 

"It's got a walking trail. It's got an Audubon certified bird habitat," she said. 

"[The Cambie corridor] is actually fairly well served from a green space perspective. So, my question is why are you focusing on one particular golf course?"