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Shuttered UND golf course potential funding source for development, some want 'Dinkytown' atmosphere

A golf ball soaks in a wet spot on the Ray Richards Golf Course near UND Monday. Eric Hylden/Forum News Service1 / 2
Andy Tveit of the UND Grounds Dept. mows through a patch of dandelions Monday at the Ray Richards Golf Course.Eric Hylden/ Forum News Service2 / 2

GRAND FORKS—Ray Richards Golf Course isn't as well manicured as it used to be.

The University of North Dakota-owned property shut down at the end of last season as the university chose to divest from the public-use, nine-hole golf course in Grand Forks. The course's greens won't be up to par for a game of golf this season, but UND facilities leader Mike Pieper said the course won't look like a prairie either.

"We're basically just planning on maintaining it to the city's new ordinance standards," Pieper said, citing code that requires landowners to keep grass and weeds no higher than 8 inches. He believes the hedges along the bordering streets will be trimmed a little closer. The course as a whole will be kept at at a length that won't run the risk of violating city ordinance, Pieper said, and will likely hit some "sweet spot" above the height of an average household lawn.

"We'll keep it nice around the edges to fit in with the neighborhood, then a little shaggier than in past years," Pieper said. The fairways might get rough, but he said UND intends to prevent the course from becoming an eyesore as it awaits a new use.

Management of the course's vegetation previously fell under the responsibilities of Pieper's division and will be largely handled in the coming months by seasonal staff, he said.

He added that reductions in maintenance staff caused by university budget cuts will go hand-in-hand this season with the smaller number of workers needed to keep the course in shape. On Monday, a single employee covered the grounds on a large riding mower.

UND President Mark Kennedy said there's "no definite plan" yet for what the university has referred to as the monetization of the grounds. The golf course land was donated in part to UND by Ray Richards in 1962. The 150-acre parcel identified in the gift agreement was listed at a value of $45,000, a fourth of which was given by Richards to the university.

In its 2017-19 appropriations bill for higher education, the North Dakota Legislature authorized UND to transfer ownership of the land if it wished. Kennedy said he'd like to make use of that authorization and move forward with some plan for the former golf course before the next legislative session.

The monetization of the course has been listed by the university as a potential funding stream for its Coulee to Columbia campus revitalization project, an initiative that targets renovations along the portion of University Avenue between the English Coulee and Columbia Road.

UND has also stated in the past the course location has been identified as a candidate for development by the Community Vibrancy Initiative, a joint effort between UND and the city of Grand Forks. The initiative has the broad goal of improving the liveability of the metro area through community-focused efforts. One major area studied through the vibrancy push was improving connections between the university and the city. UND spokesman Peter Johnson previously said a potential vibrancy development at the Ray Richards site could be compared to Dinkytown at the University of Minnesota, with dining and shopping amenities to serve both the student population and the wider metro area.

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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