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As Sarasota finalizes the Bobby Jones Golf Club renovation, advocates want permanent conservation

Golf course signs in front of trees
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media
In 2020, Sarasota city commissioners voted for a Bobby Jones Golf Club design that features 27 holes of golf, including the original 1925 course. The new plan also includes nature paths and other outdoor activities.

Nearly three years after the Sarasota City Commission first began talking about renovating Bobby Jones Golf Club, commissioners will finalize agreements for the municipal facility in a special meeting Monday.

At nearly 300 acres, Bobby Jones Golf Club is the largest green space in Sarasota. It is also home to more than 45 species of birds and other wildlife species.

When the city signs off on a newly designed downsized golf course and clubhouse Monday, they will also consider a conservation easement.

Christine Johnson, president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, says the organization has been working with the city to develop a plan to create a place where people can always enjoy nature.

"And the potential to make it into a park that can also store water for preventing flooding downstream,” she said. "And most importantly, clean the water of Phillipi Creek, an impaired water body which is a technical term for saying it’s not clean."

Johnson said wetlands restoration will reduce phosphate and nitrogen pollution into Phillipi Creek, which feeds into Sarasota Bay.

The city intends to downsize the golf course and create new public park facilities.

Included in the park amenities would be things such as additional nature trails, a playground, disc golf, tennis, and lawn bowling, distributed appropriately across the proper.

"Now they still get to create a new clubhouse,” said Johnson. “They still get to create pathways and a golf course, but they also are saying we're are not going to develop any more than this, committing to ensure that they manage the property for environmental reasons in perpetuity."

Johnson said if city commissioners approve the plan, restoration of the property's wetlands would begin almost immediately.

The City Commission will hold a special meeting dedicated to Bobby Jones at beginning at 9 a.m. on Monday.

Updated: January 13, 2022 at 6:50 AM EST
The city of Sarasota this week approved the transformation. The 261-acre site will permanently have its use limited to recreation, parkland, and green space; the existing 45-hole golf course will be downsized to 27 holes; and a 150-acre nature park will be built.

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