Journey Along the Shores – Part 1

BahaiCSGCIn my community, we have a very special spot.  It is a piece of land that runs along the North Branch of the Chicago River from the Ladd Aboretum in NW Evanston to the south, up to the Baha’i House of Worship and Gilson Park in Wilmette to the north.

Most of the land is occupied by the Canal Shores Golf Course, the founding of which was championed by golf professional Peter Jans and designed by Todd Sloan.  It is also home to walkers, runners, touch football players, campers, cyclocrossers, cross-country skiers, and many others.  It is truly unique.

A few years back, the golf course was on the verge of closing.  It was deeply in debt, and was barely playable due to lack of maintenance.  A group of concerned members of the Evanston-Wilmette community intervened, poured their energy into the course for two years, and turned it around.  With respect to finances and facilities, Canal Shores is poised to enter a new phase.  CSElshot1

After sitting on the sidelines and watching the Canal Shores Board and Staff work their magic for some time, I have jumped into the game.  At my second board meeting recently, I was fortunate enough to be included in the Grounds Committee.

The Grounds Committee has plenty of work to do, and many questions to answer:

  • How do we balance the wants and needs of golfers with other users of the space?CanalShores
  • How can we incorporate a desire for restoration and preservation of native plants and trees?
  • How can we support the superintendent in maintaining and improving the course on a shoestring budget?
  • How can we make the space so great that it will attract broader attention, while maximizing value for our community?

These are among our many remaining challenges.  They also represent our big opportunities.  As we go along in this journey, I will share updates with the expectation that I’ll be documenting one of the great comeback stories in golf history.

Stay tuned…

More Journey Along the Shores posts:


Copyright 2014 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf

25 thoughts on “Journey Along the Shores – Part 1

  1. Kudos for the great ideas for rethinking what a golf course can be. But this plan looks like a complete gut of the existing course. The course as it is, is charming and it has a unique physical relationship to the surrounding neighborhood. I’d hate to see this lost. Also there is the cost for the rebuild and how that will be recovered and paid for. The new facility would be nice but a very special course will have been lost to build it.

    1. Thanks for reaching out Paul, and for sharing your perspective.

      I agree wholeheartedly about the unique character of the course, and share your desire to preserve it. The facility has experienced more than one near-death experience in its recent history, and there are a group of members of the Board and community (myself among them) who are concerned that it will not survive another one. From our perspective, the current state of affairs is not sustainable and we are therefore seeking a to develop a more sustainable future.

      Reasonable people can disagree about the details of what that future might look like, and we encourage you and everyone else to join in the conversation. There is much spirited debate to come. However, the financial reality appears to be that unless there is a meaningful shift in how operations of and capital improvements to the facility are funded, it will not be around for the next 100 years.

      That is a risk that I believe we as a community should not take when we have the ability to come together and proactively take a new path forward.

  2. Jason, very interesting that you are working on Canal Shores as when I was at Kellogg in 2011 I did an economic analysis for the city in looking at the feasibility of the course and it’s future. Believe we came up with some similar ideas back in the day. Good luck to you guys!

    1. Awesome Brad. I would love to see that study if you still have it. There are still many details to sort out, but we have smart, dedicated people working on it. It is an opportunity to do something special, and I hope that the community comes together to make it happen.

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