Behavior shameful enough to make even a golfer blush |

Behavior shameful enough to make even a golfer blush

The Aspen Times Editorial

Golf, it must be noted, comes in for a lot of criticism.

It requires a vast amount of physical skill, very little physical exertion – and absolutely no taste whatsoever in clothes. A “country club sport,” it is essentially a rich man’s obsession. Yes, there are millions who play on public courses – but even on the public links, the cost of a few hours of golf generally eclipses the much-criticized cost of a full day of skiing. And the fees to join a private club border on the truly obscene.

Golf’s growing popularity can be seen as a sign of America’s affluence and its aging. And, perhaps, its ever-increasing weight problem.

And then there’s the issue of the golf courses themselves. Certainly, a few do strive for ecological friendliness; but the basic environmental statement on a golf course is that it may be green, but it has the same biodiversity as the asphalt lot where the golfers park their cars before climbing into their electric carts. And the heavy load of fertilizers and pesticides that preserve that precious green appearance often poisons local waterways.

So, yes, golf has attracted some criticism.

And yet, battered though the sport may already be, it certainly seems that Aspen’s Maroon Creek Club might really give golf a bad name.

The club’s golf course, it should be remembered, sits partially on city-owned open space. And yet, the club is using all the arrogance, wealth and legal power it can muster to fight a legal battle against a project that is clearly in the community interest.

We are referring, of course, to the club’s efforts to block the Music Associates’ seasonal housing project on Burlingame Ranch, which adjoins the club. That project will provide critically important summer housing for music students, housing without which the Music Festival and School – one of the backbones of Aspen’s summer economy – would be in serious straits. The project will also provide equally important winter housing for seasonal workers.

But the club members have made it very clear that they have no concern whatsoever for the well-being of the community – either its economic well-being or the extraordinary cultural benefits provided by the presence of the Music Festival and School. Instead, the club members are concerned that the extra traffic on the road that will serve both the club and the housing project will somehow inconvenience them or diminish the exclusive golfing experience for which they have paid so dearly.

Those simple facts – that the club uses public land, that it is flagrantly ignoring the needs of the community and that it is doing so for the most trivial of reasons – would seem to be enough to make even the most arrogant golfer blush.

But there is more.

The developer of the club, Jim Pearce, needed the cooperation of the Paepcke family, which owned the ranch, in order to arrange access to the club along Stage Road, the same road that is now in dispute. In order to get the Paepckes’ cooperation, Mr. Pearce signed a contract regarding the use of the road. That contract clearly states that the Paepcke family expected to build a development on the ranch. It states that Mr. Pearce (and, under the terms of the contract, the club, which bought the development from him) will not object to any such development “with respect to the following issues: A. access to any portions of the ranch along Stage Road … [and] B. the location of any type of development including … employee housing.”

Such contracts are written by lawyers, of course. Lawyers are paid to write contracts and they are paid to find loopholes when such contracts need to be broken. The Maroon Creek Club has money enough to hire lawyers enough to make a desperate effort to stall the employee housing development it promised not to oppose.

But to those who are not lawyers, the wording and intention of the contract seems clear enough that there should be no question that the club has brought shame upon itself.

And shame, indeed, even on the much maligned sport of golf.

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