Expansion of golf course could hurt local trails, wildlife

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“The War Department taking a family’s land for the war effort is understandable,” write the authors Los Alamos: the Ranch School Years, 1917-1943. “Less acceptable is knowing that the family homestead became part of a golf course.”
Well, 64 years after it was built by the Atomic Energy Commission, Los Alamos County wants to expand that golf course, affecting at least 25 acres (including the Walnut Creek and Woodland trails) used year-round by walkers, runners, cyclists, bird watchers, and nature enthusiasts.
Although the golf course is an asset to the community, the proposed (tax-payer raised) $6- and $8.6-million expansion plans are not worth the damage that will occur to some of the most frequented and accessible natural areas within city limits.
The controversy has generated much hullaballoo in recent weeks – some in county meetings, but the majority online.
The Los Alamos Trails Facebook group, the Los Alamos Bikes blog, and the Los Alamos County Views blog, to name a few, have been abuzz with banter from the local trail-loving community. Among the more interesting points that have surfaced is one that points out many towns have golf courses, but an expansive trail network through mountains, mesas and canyons is unique to Los Alamos. The county lost many of its trails to the Las Conchas Fire and subsequent flash flooding, which makes our usable, healthy trails even more valuable.
Along those same lines, our trail system is what brings many people to Los Alamos. People purchase houses here for their proximity to natural areas; visitors come to experience events such as the Jemez Mountain Runs and the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, all of which incorporate our great outdoor trail network.
Although Los Alamos County’s golf course is well-used and valuable to the community, it is not (and never will be) a destination golf course, especially when there are at least a dozen other courses within two hours.
It’s not clear what the county hopes to do with the trails if the golf course is expanded. Will they be destroyed? Rerouted? At what cost? By whom? When? If these questions are answered in a courteous, responsible and timely manner, perhaps the county wouldn’t meet so much resistance from trail enthusiasts.
Loss of wildlife habitat is a major concern. Coyotes, deer and other animals frequent this area (at no harm to anyone).
Also, a local birding group recently discovered three bird species in the area that are rare to the county.
Living in such close proximity to wildlife is a joy for many in the community, and pushing species away is hurtful not only to those who enjoy watching them, but also to the animals themselves.
There’s been some concern about the safety of people using the canyon trail below the proposed golf-course expansion area. Hikers will not be able to see if golfers hit stray balls and golfers will not be able to see hikers to give them a heads up.
These are just a few of the opinions expressed online.
To read more, or to join the discussion, please visit LA Bikes at labikes.blogspot.com, LA County Views at losalamoscountyviews.blogspot.com, or join the Facebook group.
Most importantly, please attend the Parks & Rec meeting Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Fuller Lodge.

Whitney Dreier
Los Alamos