DIXON – Historic Timber Creek Golf Course is facing closure after failing to secure a $250,000 donation from Lee County Council.
Kreider Services, which serves more than 600 people with developmental disabilities each year, is working on a public/private partnership in hopes of taking over Timber Creek, raising $1 million for irrigation repairs needed to better preserve green spaces, and hiring 40 employees, said Jeff Stutter, director. Kreider’s CEO, before the board of directors, on Thursday, said 50 people with disabilities are at the facility.
Kreider will become the new owner of Timber Creek after he buys it for $1, essentially making a donation, and they’ll need about $1 million to replace the irrigation system and pump house as well as dredging the pond.
Plans also included a large outdoor tent to host events of up to 500 people.
[ Kreider Services looks to take over Timber Creek Golf Course ]
The agency, which has partnered with investors including Jim and Ryan Marshall, has raised about $200,000 in private donations and received a $300,000 grant from the state. They are seeking $400,000 from Dixon City Council and $250,000 from District Council.
The board voted against the request in August in a 10-11 vote, Kreider officials and his supporters spoke to the county financial and executive committees about reconsidering the request last week, and the board rejected the request for reconsideration by Thursday’s 11-12 vote.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us,” Stotter said before the vote. “If we don’t get this done, there probably won’t be a golf course in Dixon anymore…that’s just the reality of the situation.”
A similar model has been used on a golf course in upstate New York, Stotter said, and the project will be a stylish, comprehensive, and unique facility in the Midwest.
Although they have other fundraising funds, Stotter said a boycott is key to their project, and he doesn’t think they would be able to achieve their goal without the boycott’s support.
Timber Creek owner Ron Keith spoke about the historical value of the course as the land was donated by Charles Walgreen, and former President Ronald Reagan was a wagon.
Pro Bob Finner said Timber Creek is more than just a golf course. It is also a place for business deals, partnerships, and gatherings.
He also mentioned how it is the only original course left at the Lincoln Highway Championship, which celebrated its centenary this year, and is giving Dixon High School golfers a place to practice.
A motion to reconsider the funding request must be submitted by an original “No” vote. It was set up by board member Jack Skrogstad, who said he didn’t think it was something that should be supported with taxpayer money, at first, but then thought it would be a good community project for the county to get involved in.
Board member Tim Bivens said he originally voted “no” on the project but changed his mind after providing more details.
“This is an economical engine that can be used,” he said. “I think it’s a worthwhile project that helps disabled people.”
Kreider board member Don Vock said the course and venue will provide a long-term form of revenue for Kreider, which is necessary because government funding for organizations like Kreider has been stagnant for years.
There is also an urgent need for more employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Stotter said manufacturers in the region are employing fewer people with disabilities.
He said there are a variety of low-skill jobs that will be available to people with disabilities including grounds maintenance.
The current irrigation system is over 50 years old and breaks down regularly. It also clogs and leaks and does not provide enough water to keep track. Cost estimates for repairing the system and making other improvements are at least $700,000 to $840,000.
The Dixon City Council did not vote on the donation amount nor publicly discuss it until Councilwoman Mary Oros joined supporters of the project at the county finance committee last week, saying they committed $400,000.
The board will have to vote publicly at a board meeting to spend the money but can meet behind closed doors if there are no more than two board members at the meeting.
The council faces some criticism from the community for not having a public discussion about the donation. Mayor Lee Arellano Jr. said during a council meeting Monday that they don’t have an official position as a city yet, and that they need a public discussion about the dollar amount.
He later said he was not against the project, but in general, the big expenditures should go through a more open process at the council level.
[ Dixon Mayor: Large expenses require as much transparency as possible ]
After being closed for a year, Timber Creek reopened in 2019 after owners Ron Keith and his son Brett signed a lease agreement with Rick and Brenda Humphrey to help revive the facility after failing to find someone to buy and keep it. A golf lesson.
[ Timber Creek revival underway, owners sign lease with Humphreys ]
Timber Creek has an 18-hole golf course, a party center, Bogey’s Bar and Grill, an outdoor pool, and tennis courts.
The Keiths bought the former Dixon Country Club as it was going out of business on February 1, 2007, for $1.1 million. At the time, membership had dwindled to less than 100.
They renamed it and changed it from a private club to a semi-private club, opening it to the public for the first time since its inception in 1915.
They ran the course at a financial loss for years with the goal of keeping it in the community and competed with municipality-run courses in the area that could be subsidized with taxpayer dollars.