Over the Hill

Garden park shows how times have changed in Paso Robles

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

Will Paso Robles’ proposed new tourist attraction waste water and further deplete the Paso Robles groundwater basin? It was OK’d Tuesday by the Paso Robles Planning Commission.

It’s a kind-of fantasy amusement park that Ken Hunter wants to build on acreage he owns in eastern Paso Robles. It would be on the north side of Highway 46 near the city limits. He is also part-owner of the Hunter Ranch Golf Course across the highway.

Paso Robles City Manager Jim App said Hunter’s Discovery Gardens park will use 90 acre-feet of water per year. So you may think, “That’s bad.”

But no, that’s good, because Hunter plans to build the Discovery Gardens instead of a proposed 27-hole golf course, which the city authorized in 2002. App said the golf course would have used 500 acre-feet of water per year. Discovery Gardens would use 410 acre-feet less.

(An acre-foot is one acre of water, one foot deep, or about 326,000 gallons.)

App’s figures are just estimates but they seem believable. Year-around, green, grassy golf courses go against nature here in semi-arid Paso Robles. They take prodigious watering.

The Planning Commission’s action Tuesday mainly concerned the golf course and the Discovery Gardens. Other major features of Hunter’s proposed resort still remain as approved in 2002. They include 200 hotel rooms, 80 bungalows and a 15,000 square-foot conference center.

The commission did impose a new requirement. The entire resort is now required to use recycled water when it becomes available from the city.

We Paso Roblans can be pleased to have dodged a water-guzzling golf course. But it reminds us how overwhelmingly artificial life has become since Paso Robles’ first golf course opened around 1917. That nine-hole course didn’t require the bulldozing of nature or the squandering of water.

It stretched along the south side of Creston Road from where Ferro Lane is now to just past where St. Rose Catholic Church was later built.

It wasn’t irrigated. Its putting greens had no grass. The putting surfaces were sand, packed down and oiled. If your approach shot hit the green it would bounce over.

Tee areas were also packed-down sand. They didn’t use modern tees. Most golfers squeezed a handful of wet sand into a miniature mountain on the ground and set the ball on that. Each tee area had a box of wet sand.

In those days we still pretty much used the Earth the way we found it. Today we expensively transform and abuse it. Nature has responded with rising sea levels, droughts, super storms and worse.