Chain link fences are historic?

They’re back…

The Columbia Country Club

I posted at A natural trail for golf on the irony of the Columbia Country Club President writing to the Council on January 13, 2008 to assert that the Purple Line would disturb the natural setting of the trail.  His Club continues to assault the natural setting of the trail with an ugly pair of 8 foot high chain link fences. Now exactly one year later the Club has submitted written comments to the MTA on the Purple Line AA/DEIS to assert that the Purple Line will seriously damage the historic setting of their golf course. The Club claims the Purple Line would, among other things, build unsightly fences and retaining walls across the beautiful and historic club grounds. The Club asserts that defacing part of the historic property irreparably injures the historic character of the entire property.

The Club did not appear to be concerned about defacing historic property with fences in 1996, when the Club demanded that fences be erected to enclose the Interim CCT. According to the agreement with the County, the Club insisted on the fences as a condition to not present a legal challenge to the construction of the Interim CCT. Under the agreement the Club designed the fence, subject to County approval of the design. The Club erected the fence with the County providing $100K toward the construction cost. The Club selected black chain link for the fence material and erected the fence across the entire width of its property. According to the agreement, the Greater Bethesda – Chevy Chase Coalition (a.k.a. “Save the Trail”) supported the deal. In contrast the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail (CCCT) wrote in its Crescent Newsletter protesting that CCCT had been excluded from the discussions, and that CCCT considered the deal be against the interests of trail users and of the public. The CCCT was dismayed that public funds were used to help the Club pinch the trail into a narrow 16′ wide passage, while the Club continued to have exclusive and free use of the remainder of the 100′ wide public right-of-way.

The fence looks no more “historic” from the Club side
than it does from the trail side.

The Purple Line will not deface the Club property as much as does the existing chain link fence. The photo at right, from an Oct. 21, 2008 MTA presentation to the County Council, shows an example of light rail transit on grass tracks with a sensible fence alongside. An 8 foot high chain link fence is not needed. Rail transit routinely operates safely in many urban areas with no fences at all. The Club, not the Purple Line designers, appears to be fixated on mega-fences.

Another assertion the Club raised in its letter to MTA was that the course arrangement was historic, being one of the oldest unchanged course layouts in the country that is still in existence today. Several greens lie in or near the public right-of-way and must be altered or moved if the Purple Line is built. The Club argues that altering any of the tees and greens will cause unacceptable harm to this historic course.

It is easy to see from the trail side of the fence that several greens are on or near the 100′ right-of-way. I have some sympathy for the Club members on this issue, although that sympathy is limited by the observation that the Club was very foolish to build greens on land it never owned. Moving private greens off public land for the public good will not be as devastating to this “historic” course as the Club asserts in its letter.

┬áThe Pebble Beach Golf Links is considered to be among the several most historic golf courses in the country, with the course designed in 1919. Experience at Pebble Beach shows that even a very historic golf course can, and does, make changes to the course alignment. According to Wikipedia, the Pebble Beach course was modified in 1922 (200 yards added to the 18th hole), in 1998 (moving the 5th to use newly purchased land), and again in 2008 (new bunkers added to the fairways of the 3rd and 6th holes to change the dynamics of play). Rigid historic accuracy was voluntarily sacrificed for these changes to improve the quality of play. Pebble Beach Golf Links appears to have survived these changes quite well, can charge $495 for a single round of play (golf cart fee not included), and still is acclaimed as “historic”. The Columbia Country Club can survive adjustments to several of its greens too.

The Purple Line can look like this at the Country Club
if appropriate fences and landscaping screens are used.
Source: Purple Line AA/DEIS

MTA announced at an October 21, 2008 briefing to the County Council a> that it is trying to negotiate with the Club about modest Purple Line realignments and a property swap that could minimize the impact of the Purple Line on the several affected tees and greens. Trail users likely would support reasonable efforts to minimize impacts on the Club greens, provided the Trail design is not adversely impacted. But the Club comments recently submitted to MTA imply the Club will oppose any changes to its “historic” property (and apparently also the right-of-way that the public owns) and calls into question whether the Club will accept any compromise. If the Club is headed to the courts anyway, it is time for the County to stop deferring to the Club and start putting the public interest first instead.

The County can and should tear down the unsightly trail fence and return the fence materials to the Club. Under the terms of the agreement the County can remove the fence when the County begins to build the permanent trail. The Club lost any claim to the 100 foot right-of-way in the courts shortly after the agreement was signed. The County Council and Executive have just sent a joint letter to MTA to recommend that the Locally Preferred Alternative for the Purple Line be Light Rail Transit in the Georgetown Branch Corridor. The County should remove the fence now as the first step to begin construction of the permanent CCT that will be alongside the Purple Line.

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One Response to “Chain link fences are historic?”

  1. I agree, I think that it is unsightly and should never have been put up in the first place. I do not think that this should have ever happened, I would be fighting along side of you if I lived in your neck of the woods.