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This former California municipal golf course will return to a greenspace under approved plan

A once-beloved municipal golf course in Stockton, California, finally has a direct path to becoming a working greenspace thanks to a plan approved recently by the city’s common council.

Van Buskirk Golf Course in south Stockton has been closed since before the pandemic, and a plan to bring the space back to a park was given full approval, even though it will take some time to implement. The course was shuttered when the city’s lease with a former operator expired in 2019, is located between Houston Avenue and the levees of the San Joaquin River and French Camp Slough.

The golf course, a longtime staple in the south Stockton community, was open to the public for six decades before it closed in 2019. This classic Larry Norstrom design was built in 1960. The 214-acre property has sat behind a chain-link fence since the Van Buskirk family decided to give it to the city, provided it was only used for recreation.

A multiple-acre grass fire rages at the former Van Buskirk golf course in south Stockton. The 214-acre property has been idle since 2019 when the city shuttered the course. Photo: Clifford Oto/Stockton Record/USA Today Network

Here’s more on the story from the Stockton Record, part of the USA Today Network:

In a unanimous vote at last week’s Stockton City Council meeting, council members approved a master plan to bring a 192-acre park to the site of the former municipal golf course.

City officials have planned for the site’s redevelopment, but several fires have ripped through the property, including a multi-acre grass fire in June. Now, it’s seeing a new chance at life.

“This is such a phenomenal opportunity and once it’s complete, I think it’s going to be one of the marquee parts of the area, if not the region,” said Steve Noll, a representative of Design Workshop, the firm hired to design the park.

The master plan comes after several community meetings where Stocktonians had the opportunity to view the proposed design of the park and provide their feedback. A preliminary master plan design was approved by council in January.

The master plan approved Tuesday includes an “adventure playground,” an event lawn, a BMX track and bike trail, a community garden, disc golf, a golf academy, a dog park, a skate park, splash pads, basketball and pickleball courts, as well as areas that can serve as potential flood control space. However, Noll said the master plan is an “evolving document” and is meant to be used as a framework plan for staff to secure funding.

“We can update it,” Noll said. “There’s opportunities if (ideas) come up in the future.”

District 4 Councilwoman Susan Lenz said she felt the city did a “very, very good job” of getting public input on the design of the park. According to a city report, there were six stakeholder meetings, two online surveys, 110 survey responses, nine staff meetings, and four in-person meetings with the community.

“Most of the people, I have to say, at a couple of meetings in the beginning, they were very happy that it was going to be this multi-use park with different things for children, different things for adults,” Lenz said. “I think it’s a good plan. I hope we can find the funding to do this.”

Vice Mayor Kimberly Warmsley said that she and council lobbied for federal funding during the San Joaquin One Voice trip to Washington D.C. in May. On the same trip, she and Mayor Kevin Lincoln met with the Biden Administration to discuss the project, according to the vice mayor.

“We have worked with our federal lobbyists time and time again. Every single year, we have been to D.C. for this Van Buskirk project,” Warmsley said. “I don’t want anyone in this audience or anyone who is listening to think this city is not putting this park as a priority. We are knocking, we are begging, we are pleading, we are taking people out for tacos … we’re trying to get this project funded.”

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