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City Manager Weighs In On His Decision To Turn Off Ruth Park Driving Range Lights

City Manager Lehman Walker shares with U City Patch four points regarding the Ruth Park Driving Range Lights.

Earlier this month, City Manager Lehman Walker made the decision to on the Ruth Park Driving Range in University City.

angered some residents, while others, especially those who live near the range, welcomed it.

 of driving range neighbors and golf enthusiast was formed at Walker's request to look at complaints about the range. The committee recommendations were sent to Walker. A permanent shutdown of the lights was not among the suggestions sent to him. 

Below are four points Mr. Walker provided to University City Patch concerning his decision. He calls the list Driving Range Lighting Issue Facts:

  1. The Driving Range Committee made 8 recommendations. I agreed with 7 of them.
  2. The net gain in revenue for the driving range is $11,000.
  3. 83% of the golfers at Ruth Park are not residents of University City.
  4. The lights are intrusive on the residents across the street on Groby Ave. I decided to turn them off pending further study after the city has hired a golf course landscape architect to come up with design and screening solutions.
mary zaggy May 29, 2011 at 01:55 PM
That the driving range is used overwhelmingly by NON-U-Citians, and with the input from neighbors who are directly impacted by the driving range lights are two very important factors whci I am glad Mr. Walker has considered in his decision to keep the lights off. U City is the home to many people, and the quality of life here is in large part due to our wonderful neighborhoods. Light pollution, particularly in one's own backyard or front yard, detracts from the quality of life. Quiet streets should remain quiet. Furthermore,a small investment/donation was made by the city of Clayton to help get the driving range built, in return for a huge permanent discount to Clayton city residents who use the driving range. Is tht perhaps why so many nonresidents (?presumablyfrom Clayton,taking advantage of this big discount) are using the driving range? Is the driving range more important than preserving and protecting the quality of life of our TAXPAYING own residents? Thank you, Mr. Walker. Mary Ann Zaggy, U City Resident since 1983
John Clark May 29, 2011 at 03:08 PM
This is an e-mail I just sent to the council, mayor, and Mr. Walker: Hello Madam Mayor, Council Members, and Mr. Walker, First of all, let me say two things about the golf range lights. I'm a golfer, and I often used the free range at Ruth Park during daylight hours, and that is now gone, so I felt some loss there. Second, I frequently drove 20 minutes to the nearest golf range for night practice, either in the Missouri bottoms or at Tower Tee, so I also saw the benefit of the new range. In other words, I truly could have gone either way on this issue. However, that was a fight we had last year! It was unpleasant at the time, but it was fought and decided. We then chose to spend enormous financial capital on this range; the original cost was one thing, but the council's decision to give Clayton residents the resident discount for golf in perpetuity struck me as being insane, both politically and fiscally. 5 years, 10 years, I could have seen. Until their share of the range was paid off, I could have understood. But forever!?! How much more subservient do we need to be to our wealthy neighbors? Continued..John Clark
John Clark May 29, 2011 at 03:10 PM
e-mail continued: Hello Madam Mayor, Council Members, and Mr. Walker, Now, a couple of observations. First, when I first saw the range lights in operation in the fall, I was SHOCKED at how unobtrusive they were. They point at golf course, woods, and more golf course only. Truly, the street lights appear brighter from Groby than the range lights, at least to me. Second, the total number of affected homes is, at max, 7, and that's being generous. Really, only about 3 homes are across from the range and the lights themselves, but even at 7, to take a major financial loss based on this small number of homes seems irresponsible to me, especially since we've already had the fight about it. Another thought about the money...even given the large amount of money that was made in its first year of existence, that's just the beginning, as any business owner can tell you. Most of my golfing friends, including one I asked just a couple of weeks ago, are unaware that Ruth Park even has a range, and that it is the only lighted range in the mid-county area. Once that market becomes more aware that it's here, that revenue is only going to increase by large degrees. Can we really afford to turn down this money, especially given that most of it will eventually come from non-residential sources.
John Clark May 29, 2011 at 03:11 PM
e-mail continued: Now, though, I have to tell you how disgusted I am by this government and its operations. I used to teach history and government in north St. Louis county, and I would laugh with great smugness at the banana republics so many of those communities and schools had going, with their name calling and finger pointing. Their desire to make radical changes at every new election pretty much guaranteed the failure of the businesses and schools under their control. Who's going to want to open a business, or become a school leader, where all the premises on which they've built their business/plans can be called into question every election? Not many, and certainly not many good ones. I can't tell if this group is so power-hungry that it can't see the big picture clearly, or if it just lacks a fundamental intelligence needed to do the right thing by all of its residents. Either way, though, my beautiful little city is in danger of being torn asunder for no good reason, if the driving range decision is any indication.
John Clark May 29, 2011 at 03:12 PM
e-mail continued Madam Mayor, your behavior is particularly questionable in all this. When my wife asked you why the lights were turned off (no announcement or posting; I found out with my kids in the car as we were all going to hit golf balls one evening), you told her it was out of your area, and Mr. Walker made that decision. I later had reason to be at the golf course talking to two employees, both of whom shall remain nameless given the climate of fear that's being established among city employees, and related that conversation you had with her. Both of their jaws dropped, their eyes got wide, and one of them said, "She said what?!" Now, I suppose you can argue this is he said/she said, but I can judge an honest reaction from people, and I believe these employees. Their response was immediate, and they were stunned by your statement.
John Clark May 29, 2011 at 03:14 PM
e-mail continued: Mr. Walker, however, your behavior wins the prize for dishonesty. When you called my wife about the driving range back in early spring, I was sitting in the room with her. When you told her the lights would be back on in two weeks, she covered the phone with her hand, and told me what you said, even while she was on the phone with you. While she was frustrated by my sons' and my experience, you had an answer to her question that got her off the phone at that moment, and out of your hair. The fact that your answer was patently incorrect I'm sure didn't bother you, but it does tell me a lot about you as a leader. I've worked for lots of bad leaders in my time, and almost all have had the ability to tell someone who's upset (a parent, a student, or a teacher) whatever was necessary to get them out of their office. Of course, follow through was inconsistent at best, and after a short time the students, parents and employess stopped trusting anything those leaders had to say. But now, Mr. Walker, you've gone one step further, and essentially accused my wife of lying about your conversation. You could've said, "You know, when I talked to you at the time, the plan was to turn them back on when the weather got warmer, but there have been some reconsideration by the council since then." Or, "That was the plan, but as I explored the issue more, I came to the conclusion that the lights should stay off."
John Clark May 29, 2011 at 03:15 PM
ello Madam Mayor, Council Members, and Mr. Walker, e-mail continued: Instead, you told my wife she "remembered the conversation differently!" What kind of political nonsense is that--at least have the courage to stand behind "your" decision. Don't try to act as though my wife, a successful teacher and mother herself, is some crazy lady pestering the city council, manager and the mayor with a nonsense issue! Shame on you for attempting to do so. Obviously, I am in favor of turning the lights back on with all haste. More importantly, I am in favor of the city having consistency between administrations, and restoring the atmosphere that was conducive to business and residential success. I don't know exactly how many terms that Mayor Adams served, but I do know that nothing like this ever came up under his leadership. In his time, the Loop experienced unbelievable growth, my property values went steadily up, and other business areas grew and expanded as well. I also don't recall large numbers of citizens accusing the mayor, manager and the council of being dishonest. Please, please, correct yourselves before you do destroy what has been painstakingly built here. John Clark 7575 Stanford Avenue University City, MO 63130
Beverly Brandt May 29, 2011 at 04:11 PM
I confess to being pretty removed from the driving range issue, so my question may be a silly one. But why is it that the number of non residents who use the driving range weighs into the decision about the lights? Isn't their money as green as resident money? If we can afford to lose the $11,000 (that apparently mostly non-residents bring us,) then fine. But $11,000 is $11,000, whether it comes from UCity residents or not.
Jeff Roberts May 29, 2011 at 06:17 PM
I agree with most of the points that Mr. Clark has just made. I live on Alanson Dr. in the first house where it intersects with Groby. We occasionally find golf balls in our backyard and we see the lights from the range...quite honestly the street light that shines into my bedroom window ALL NIGHT creates more "light pollution" than the range! I would never suggest we turn off street lights in our community ... lights protect residents from accidents, prevent crime and encourage neighbors to stay outside longer in the evening. I am appalled by this decision, made without notification and particularly at this time. As Mr. Clark mentioned, we addressed all this before the range was put in...these are the same issues...a decision was made and $ was spent. We can't afford to lose revenue from ANYONE who wants to spend their $ in U.City and we can't afford to spend $ on landscaping proposals/architects when U.City in Bloom had the plans but our government didn't follow through. I have lived in U.City all my life and I know we can do much better. Jo Ann Roberts 940 Alanson Dr.
I Chastain May 30, 2011 at 06:41 PM
What? You're going to spend MORE money on hiring a landscape architect to come up with design and screening solutions? Why didn't the city do this in the first place?!!
James Bashkin May 31, 2011 at 12:59 PM
I strongly agree with these comments by Beverly Brandt. We seem to be overjoyed at the financial success of The Loop, which is by no means entirely due to U City residents spending money there. Why would we, as a community, turn our back on funds that didn't come out of our own pockets? It makes no sense t ome: how many of us want more of a tax burden? None, I suspect, at least not without a clear and important reason. Revenue from outsiders helps bring us financial stability. Turn the lights back on, please!
Cindy May 31, 2011 at 04:51 PM
They tried. There was a $13k budget and U City in Bloom designed a screening solution. However, the residents who live across the street vehementlyopposed the plan (and since they seem to be calling the shots related to the driving range), the landscaping plan were abandoned and the money budgeted when toward other needs at the golf course. And, the reason the golf course no longer has the beautiful flower garden at the entrance is a result of the rudeness and disrepect the residents exhibted to U City in Bloom when showing their disdain for the plans.
Lin May 31, 2011 at 09:52 PM
I have no idea if the original decision to install the lighting was a good one, but the decision was made. Clearly the only reason for Mr Walker to turn off the lights was #4, the objections of the 7 residents across the street. The other three reasons are excuses for the decision. Now that we've spent the money for this project, why don't we give it a chance for the upcoming season? Why quit now?
Kim June 01, 2011 at 02:15 AM
The city needs money. Badly. So we should turn up our noses when residents from neighboring communities want to spend their money here? And the light-impact study showed NO light spill into the neighborhood. This is nothing more than political payback.
Kim June 01, 2011 at 02:19 AM
P.S. Please turn the lights back on Mr. Walker! My family wants to use the driving range that our tax dollars paid for.
George Lenard June 01, 2011 at 04:05 PM
John Clark has laid out a very persuasive position and exposed some very troubling facts. I don't golf, so have no interest in the matter personally, but I think the "good government" implications of this are indeed troubling. How can we move forward on tough, major issues when we have this kind of thing going on, with the unjustified reversal of what was clearly a "done deal" on what, in the big picture of city government, is a relatively minor issue?
John Woodworth June 01, 2011 at 07:41 PM
It appears to me that many of the decisions being made in the city of late are based on pay back in the last election. We didn't get the bike trail thru the woods because a couple of people didn't want it, we turned off the lights because a few people brought in a lot of votes from a certain group. The banana republic comment is accurate. Please start thinking about the greater good of the city and stop playing take care of my friends
Kim September 30, 2011 at 03:35 PM
Coverage on the driving range lights from Channel 2: http://www.fox2now.com/videobeta/?watchId=4c1997e3-a112-4ce4-b8e1-cd71039c319a
Cindy October 01, 2011 at 01:56 AM
The Patch is deleting comments and shutting down the option to comment on recent articles regarding the driving range. The driving range discussion has now moved to the Post-Dispatch. Please check it and leave a comment: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/article_0e46b824-cc1e-5ae8-9a43-12b53d057713.html?mode=comments
Ed October 01, 2011 at 03:58 AM
The revenue from the driving range when the lights are on was $16,000 according to a report by the previous Parks Director. The current City Manager is including salaries as expenses that have to be paid whether the lights are on or not. This is irresponsible accounting since only incremental expenses should be used. As one person pointed out, the revenue could still increase as more people find out that the driving range - with lights - is here. It is also important to realize this is NOT a residential neighborhood. It is a Commercial street with houses across the street from a commercial facility. This is an important distinction. It's been that way since the course was built in 1931. The residential area starts another block south of Groby where there are houses on both sides of the street. Commercial facilities change their use and nature all the time all over the U.S. Anyone who moves into a house across the street from a commercial facility is aware it is a commercial facility and has the potential to increase its use when they move in. And if they didn't think this was possible then that's part of their life's learning experience and were naive about it. I do not at all mean to be insulting or derogatory in any way. I'm just stating the facts of the situation.

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