In reading comments of others and talking to people about Fort Sheridan, I am struck by the mis-information possessed by many. These misunderstandings persist regardless of one’s position on the golf course. For example, there are those who oppose the golf course that believe co-existence between rustic “nature preserve” habitat and golf is impossible. But they are wrong. And (again, only for example) some among those who are pro-golf believe that Lake County “bulldozed” the existing Fort Sheridan golf course out of existence. They, too are wrong.
Facts & Opinions
In this environment of mud-slinging targeted at the Lake County Board by golf course supporters and general disinformation, I am reminded of the quote from former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” On the matter of the Fort Sheridan Golf Course, there are many issues, lots of opinions, but there are really only two salient facts:
- The number of rounds of golf being played is insufficient to support a new Fort Sheridan Golf Course and existing municipal golf courses in the region. This makes the proposed course a financial risk to Lake County and a threat to nearby municipal courses.
- Regardless of development costs of a new golf course, the revenue cannot support its operating costs. Unabated, this will deplete the enterprise fund which supports this operation.
Let’s Stick to the Facts
The recent return of Bobolink and Meadowlark to the Fort Sheridan prairie is wonderful news– and irrelevant. The potential drainage of fertilizer from the golf course into Lake Michigan is tragic and irresponsible – and irrelevant. Even the theoretical incremental business Highwood perceives golf will provide over other uses is important – and irrelevant. Yes, all other things being equal, it might come down to a duel between tree huggers and golfers. But this is a false dichotomy. Those who stir things up along those lines are doing just that – stirring things up and obfuscating the real issues. And in doing so, they are playing with facts.
How Factual are the Facts
Are the facts fungible? Indeed. The estimates of potential rounds of golf, predictions of the future of the golf game, estimates of development costs, assumptions about incremental maintenance costs and more are all subject to speculation. Yet these are the basis, the facts, upon which conclusions are drawn and policy is made. The County golf course consultant summed it up simply by saying “it all comes down to risk.”
The Lake County three existing golf courses and the proposed Fort Sheridan course are run from an enterprise fund and operate like a business. The County has the facts and they’ll hear them again soon. They understand the variables in the underlying assumptions about the facts they will hear. And they know it is a risk going forward with the Fort Sheridan Golf Course. Acting on our behalf as business people, one hopes they recognize it is a risk not worth taking.