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‘Save the Heights’ group hopes to rally support for city-owned golf course

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A Facebook group formed Thursday to rally support for a city-owned golf course is gaining traction in Polk County.

“It’s meant a lot to me for a long time,” said Tim Darby, a Lakeland attorney who created the group “Save the Heights 27.”

He has visited Cleveland Heights Golf Course several times a week for as long as he can remember.

“I can fight but I’m one person and I want to protect this place,” he said. “It’s my heritage as well as many others.”

Cleveland Heights is a city-owned and subsidized golf course.

The city budgeted $2,475,632 for the golf course for fiscal year 2020, with $1,254,500 in expected revenue.

Like other parks and libraries, the city says, it doesn’t make a profit.

“We need to deal with this issue,” said Steve Scruggs, president of the Lakeland Economic Development Council, at a recent city commission meeting.

In a presentation involving a wide-range of ideas to save the city money, Scruggs proposed contracting with a private operator to run the golf course or commercial or residential development.

“Should we close the golf course and develop the property into a park? Probably not because we’re not going to make any money but we’ll probably stop losing money,” he said. “If we built 800 apartments and 200 homes out there, we would very conservatively bring in $1 million in tax revenue.”

Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz tells News Channel 8 the Cleveland Heights golf course will be a part of future strategic planning discussions.

“Discussions, like many other topics, involving broader taxpayer considerations, but [it] is not on any agenda beyond that. Furthermore, if it were ever to be a pursued matter, those discussions would be very public. I, too, regard it as a wonderful city amenity. Meanwhile, the most certain way to abate these discussions is to have citizens support its use and play the golf course!” Mayor Mutz said.

A city official tells 8 On Your Side there is currently no plan to sell all or part of the golf course.

“The idea also was floated last year and it gained no traction. I’m not saying it will never be discussed because they’re our city commission and we’re always looking at ways to save money,” said Kevin Cook, director of communications for the city of Lakeland.

The Cleveland Heights Golf Course will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2025.

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