Far be it for me to stand in the way of economic development around Kent – we need new businesses and jobs.
And in that sense, it’s exciting that the former Twin Lakes Country Club golf course on Overlook Road is scheduled to reopen this spring.
This won't be a private club anymore. The Twin Lakes Country Club, which opened in 1923, closed in late 2009. David Beck, and his father Ray, owners of Beck Energy of Ravenna, recently purchased the 97-acre, nine-hole course, including the clubhouse, for $618,618. The newly named "Fairways at Twin Lakes" will be a public course.
"We want a first-class golf facility," David Beck told me in a recent interview. "It will be quite a task to get it up and running by spring."
The part that's most intriguing to me about this venture: "We would like to have someone open a high-class restaurant at the clubhouse," Beck said. "We're not sure yet who will run it, but it would be nice to have someone local." A new place to eat in Kent, some new jobs, and drawing people to the area — those are all good reasons to be pleased with the reopening.
But nicely maintained golf courses, in general, have been called "devastating to the environment," by The Organic Consumers Association, and others, because of their heavy use of water, pesticides and fertilizers. It takes 2.5 billion gallons of water daily to irrigate the world's golf courses, according to World Watch magazine. That's enough water per day to provide 4.7 billion people at the United Nations daily minimum.
In addition, 4 million pounds of "an arsenic-containing pesticide, monosodium methanearsonate, is applied to golf courses and cotton fields in the U.S. annually to control weeds," according the World Watch Institute website.
Other communities have fought new golf courses over concerns about drinking water pollution and wildlife habitat. And some owners have responded to such worries by joining programs, such as the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, which assist in reducing water and chemical use.
It would be great if the the Beck family would consider such a program at the Twin Lakes Course, but it doesn't appear likely soon.
"This is our first year, so probably not," David Beck said. "We're really focused on providing a quality course for the public. It (being more environmentally friendly) is something we haven't given a whole lot of thought to just yet.
"Most of the people we hear from are just thankful it's not going to become a subdivision or get rundown," Beck said.
It's hard to tell how invested the Beck family actually is in golf. "We don't play golf. I'm a runner, and we work and work and work some more," Beck said.
All that work is on drilling oil and gas wells. The Becks already own two wells on the golf course property. The type of drilling they often do, called fracking, is a hot-button issue right now, and the Kent Environmental Council is holding a public forum to talk about it in February. (Watch this column for more about the KEC fracking forum.)
Chief among fracking concerns is the potential for polluting the water table. And in the Twin Lakes area, groundwater wells are the primary source of residential drinking water.
"Yes, oil and gas drilling is our business, but we're not going to roll a rig into the middle of the fairway," Beck said. "Some people act like this is the Exxon Valdez, or something like that. My father is a bit of a land preservationist. He likes land. This is a beautiful piece of property, and my father hopes to maintain it."
So, while preserving the land and building a business could be good things for Kent, green-minded folks might want to watch how it's done over the next few years. Perhaps the Beck family could be persuaded to green their greens in the years to come.