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Winter Quarters could get mulligan

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(Jan. 25, 2018) Pocomoke City officials are expected to consider a lease agreement that could reopen the Winter Quarters golf course.

City Manager Bobby Cowger on Tuesday said the agreement would likely come up during the next City Council meeting, Feb. 5.

Earlier this month the council voted 3-1 to close the municipal course, citing financial losses and declining membership.

Winter Quarters, on average, lost about $173,000 during each of the last five fiscal years and was expected to lose more than $100,000 this year, despite efforts to increase advertising.

Membership at the course had declined to just 17 players.

Councilwoman Esther Troast, just prior to the vote on Jan. 8, said officials had to weigh what was best for the entire city.

“We have pressing issues. We have water that part of our town cannot drink, that we’re working on to rectify,” she said at the time. “We have streets that we can’t drive down without feeling like we’re on a roller coaster.

“We have inherited some problems that have been going on for too many years … and we’re committed into getting these things straightened out,” Troast added. “It breaks my heart to have to make the decision that I’m about to make.”

Cowger said he could not yet release any specifics, but confirmed the town was in negotiations with “a private entity to lease the golf course from us.”

“This city is drawing up a lease agreement now that should be ready for our Feb. 5 meeting, and it should be signed and a public announcement will be made,” he said. “They’re going to run and manage it, and the city contribution will be in-kind. We’re going to pretty much lease everything, for a minimal cost.”

He said the city would allow the company to use equipment, including golf carts, owned by the town.

“It’s going to be a one-year lease for a trial to see how it goes,” he said. “If both parties are happy, then we’ll renew the lease after a year. It’ll be a nice little partnership, if it works out.

“At least it’s something the city is working on. We had no choice [but to close the course] because of the money, but we certainly are willing to do whatever we can on our part if there’s some interest that we can help get the golf course back on track,” Cowger added. “But the city won’t be putting up any monetary expenses at all.”

A separate group is apparently still pursuing a historical designation for Winter Quarters, which could bring in grant funding for course maintenance.

Cowger said the nine-hole course, built in the 1940s and deeded to the town in 1949, draws about 800 rounds of play each year.