Above par

A defunct golf course will become a city park, but it won't come cheap

The old Northgate clubhouse isn’t exactly the ugliest building in town.

The old Northgate clubhouse isn’t exactly the ugliest building in town.


To learn more about Sierra Vista Park, visit http://bit.ly/18Nq6if

The entrance to the former Northgate Golf Course has cracked asphalt and landscaping that’s more wild than cultivated, but the spot still feels trim and clean, somehow—the portal to a once-posh place with killer mountain views and more than 200 rolling acres. On a sunny day last week, the only litter in sight was a used condom, perfectly centered on the driveway and pointing toward the locked gate like a sad sort of arrow.

This one’s a strange place for romance, as it’s rather exposed and about a block downhill from a giant Mormon church, but that’s another story. Ditto the fact that Northgate, near Somersett, was hailed as one of the best new golf courses in the country when it opened in the late 1980s. These days, it’s getting buzz because neighbors and nonprofits want to turn it into an ecologically friendly public park, and city staff have just unveiled an ambitious plan that’s paving the way for bike trails, an archery range, restored native habitat and natural drainage.

A state grant of around $135,000 will go toward Sierra Vista Park’s first phase of development, but that’s where the budget stops, at least for now. The land’s original water rights are long gone, for the record, and not every neighbor is keen on the whole makeover plan.

“I’m kind of sad that they’re actually about to start building stuff,” said neighbor Lynn Walters, who shimmied around the gate with her dog. “Everybody lets their dogs off-leash here, and it’s a safe place to walk. … Parks have limitations, you know. You keep your dog on a leash, that kind of stuff, but here people just walk their dogs all over, and we’re out at all times of day.”

Graffiti now adorns the boarded-up clubhouse where Walters and her friends once lunched, and an outbuilding that looks like an equipment garage is heavily tagged. The area is still scenic in many ways, though, and not half as dilapidated or miserable as the city website suggests.

The land-use issue is essentially bureaucratic. As Reno parks manager Jeff Mann explained, a previous donor/developer was able to reclaim the property when it ceased to operate as a golf course in 2009. Because said developer does residential work, neighbors figured they’d be staring at a new subdivision soon. Thus, the park idea.

“They had bought houses in anticipation of golf-course views or open-space views for perpetuity,” Mann said. The city acquired the land for around $2.4 million in 2011, with help from Washoe County and adjacent homeowners.

Kevin Joell, from a volunteer trail-building group called Poedunk, estimates two-and-a-half miles of bike trails would run about $1,000, provided workers spend a month on the project. His organization offered to help, “but it is unknown what level of involvement the Poedunks will have in Sierra Vista, since it hasn’t been voted on by their board as a project,” Joell said in an email.

Mann says Poedunk is one of the main players, actually.

“Nothing is going to happen up there as far as feature improvements,” he said, “unless we have private groups and individuals stepping forward to help with construction funding and ongoing maintenance.”