OCEAN CITY – With chronic tidal flooding problems at the town’s municipal golf course in West Ocean City only intensifying, resort officials this week learned remediation efforts are likely needed sooner rather than later.
The town’s award-winning Eagle’s Landing municipal golf course is over three decades old, and while it remains among the top courses in the state and around the region, it is beginning to show its age. The town has completed many projects in recent years at Eagle’s Landing to upgrade the facility, from the replacement of cart bridges to upgrades at the clubhouse and repaving the parking areas.
However, one significant project still looms. Because of its proximity to the coastal bays, which contributes to the popularity of the municipal course, several low-lying holes are subject to chronic tidal flooding incidents and deterioration and are in need of remediation. During a presentation of the draft capital improvement plan (CIP) on Tuesday, the council learned renovating the area subject to tidal flooding, which has been a regular fixture on the CIP in recent years, has now become a top priority, according to Eagle’s Landing Superintendent Joe Perry.
“Two years ago, the council voted this as very important,” he said. “To me, it’s a need and not a want. To maintain the quality of the golf course, we need to move forward with this.”
After three decades, Eagle’s Landing and its infrastructure are in need of renovation. The golf course has served the town and its residents and visitors well, but the renovations are needed in order for the municipal course to remain viable in the regional golf market.
The long-term goal is to develop a golf course renovation master plan, perform survey and engineering work, obtain permits and retain the services of a design or build firm to make changes to certain identified holes in order to reduce damage from recurring tidal flooding events. A pre-master plan assessment has been completed, which identified needed repairs and improvements to the course.
The highest priority are measures to reduce repeat damage and hole closures due to tidal flooding by raising the elevation on five low-lying holes, replacing storm drain outfalls and installing additional flood control improvements. Certain holes flood during high tide events and have to be altered or deemed unplayable at times.
A consultant surveyed the course a couple of years ago and developed a series of recommendations to mitigate the flooding issues. That project, with an estimated $1.5 million price tag, was listed as “very important” in the town’s most recent CIP update. While the golf course is an enterprise fund, those significant renovations will likely have to be paid for as part of a bond sale or contributions from the general fund as pay-as-you-go projects.
However, the original estimate has now increased to around $2.8 million. Because the golf course is an enterprise fund and self-supporting financially, the cost would be born by those who use the course, but the improvements needed to remediate the chronic flooding problems might need to be included in a future bond issue.
“We’re experiencing increased occurrences and increased severity of tidal flooding events,” Perry said. “When you get tidal flooding downtown and you have to cancel events, that’s what’s happening at your golf course.”
While Eagle’s Landing continues to be a revenue generator for the resort, there have been times when the course has been closed because of the chronic tidal flooding, according to Perry.
“In October 2019, we lost four-and-a-half days to flooding,” he said. “That’s our busiest month. We had beautiful sunny days, but the course was closed. We lost around $70,000 in revenue not counting what we had to repair and remediate.”
The council is just beginning its review of the draft CIP update and a deeper dive will be taken into many of the projects on the list. Perry said if the town pulls the trigger and includes Eagle’s Landing renovations on a bond issue or some other funding source in the final CIP, there is a plan in place for reimbursement.
“We have a concept plan in place,” he said. “It would be paid for through user fees and would not come from the general fund. The golf course is self-sustaining and is making profits for the town. This project would be bonded, but it would be reimbursed through user fees over time to pay the debt service.”
Perry said Eagle’s Landing remains a remarkable amenity for the town and its residents and visitors but needs renovations. He said another project on the list for the future is upgrading the chipping and putting practice facilities.
“It’s a 32-year-old golf course,” he said. “It’s like a 32-year-old house. It’s in great shape but every once in a while, you need to redo a kitchen or a bathroom. We’d really like to renovate our short-game practice facility. We’re the only course that doesn’t have a driving range. It we can find $150,000 in funding, we can get a lot done. It would be done in phases and there would have to be three holes closed during each phase. We’re looking at creative ways to keep the course open and maybe do a 15-hole course and lessen the loss in revenue. It can mostly be done during the winter and spring.”