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Volunteers are needed to help continue the repair of Calistoga’s Mount St. Helena Golf Course, which was promised to be open by April 1 but has been delayed to the course’s traditional opening day of golf season, an official said.

“As I am sure you’re aware, we’ve been working diligently to clean up the course and restore conditions for quality play, and though it’s not ideal, after reviewing the current course conditions and our intentions to present it in the best possible conditions when we invite the public back in, we are delaying the opening to April 20th (historically, the opening day of golf season),” said Carlene Moore, CEO of the Napa County Fairgrounds in a statement.

The season’s heavy rains and cold temperatures set back restoration and clean-up work being done by volunteers and Cal Fire, which is working to clear debris from windstorms.

The course’s greens, while showing improvement over the last week or so, could use “a couple more weeks of moderate to warm temperatures, sunshine and another round of treatment,” Moore said.

The delay to April 20 will allow for the course to be aerated, and organize more clean up on the course by volunteers.

Volunteers are needed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 14. Work that will be accomplished includes scrubbing, repairing and painting tee markers, benches and ball washers.

“On behalf of the board, please join us by spreading the word that we are delaying the opening in order to provide a quality golf experience as we work to preserve this open green space for all of Calistoga,” Moore said.

Moore and the Napa County Fair Association Board of Directors have been under fire by the golfing community for the substandard conditions of the golf course for a couple of years. It reached a fever pitch in August 2016, when golfers sought to “embarrass” the board into taking action, some golfers said then.

It was about the same time Moore and the Fair Board presented the City Council with the prospect of the Joint Powers Authority that is still in negotiation between Calistoga and Napa County, which owns the Fairgrounds property. Calistoga and Napa County are negotiating purchase terms, but Mayor Chris Canning said at Tuesday’s council meeting that there was “no reportable action,” meaning that no terms of purchase were reached at the March 28 special meeting.

Complaints through the months since August 2016 from golfers include insufficient watering of greens, creating scorched conditions and an unplayable course; greens fees that are too high for the quality of the course; lack of communication; and closure of the course since the October firestorms.

Moore and the fair board have upheld that the course is a valuable commodity to the community, recently calling it “green space,” and agree that it is in desperate need of improvements. But NCFA does not have the funds needed to truly transform the course, and has barely enough money even to bandage it.

Maintenance of the course is hampered by old, broken equipment that limps along and needs to be replaced. Most of the physical labor done on the course is achieved through volunteers because NCFA does not have enough money for proper staffing, a problem due largely to state funding cuts more than five years ago.

A complete overhaul is needed, NCFA directors and Moore have said, but they can’t secure a partnership with a third-party management service that might be willing to invest in the course – something they and the golfing community would welcome — because the governance structure of the contract under which the NCFA works with the County is short-term, needing to be renewed every five years. Companies are not willing to negotiate and invest in a business that could dissolve in just a few years — they need long-term commitment, officials have said.

The contract between Napa County and NCFA concludes at the end of this year, and the NCFA board decided that it needs to move forward – though it doesn’t know the status yet of the JPA – to plan for what NCFA will look like once their contract is up.

They have discussed at past board meetings whether they might continue to put on the annual fair and parade during the Fourth of July, or whether they might take on the singular role of fundraising for such events. Some on the board have expressed frustration at the length of time JPA negotiations have taken – a process they are not involved in – and feeling as if they are in limbo.


The Weekly Calistogan Editor