Protesters of River Road Golf Course closure hop fence to play
LONDON, ONT. -- Some members of the London, Ont. municipal golf courses are not taking the closure of River Road lightly.
Saturday morning a few showed up to protest outside the south east London course, and a few even hopped over the rail alongside the road to play four holes.
"We're city members so we playing course we purchased a membership for," says Leonard Bazay, who is a city course member.
Angus Johnson organized the protest and has started a petition on Change.Org to get city council to reverse its decision.
"What you are seeing here is guys who are frustrated with the problems the closure has created," says Johnson.
"With this course closed, there is huge pressure on booking system and no one can get times at Fanshawe or Thames Valley. I paid for a membership for three golf courses and I'm only getting two and can hardly play on those two."
Two weeks ago council voted 9-4 in favour of closing the course as they projected losses as high as $80,000 at River Road.
"I understand why people want options, but we have to be responsible in this decision," Ward 2 councillor Shawn Lewis said during the late June council meeting.
"If River Road is going to have a future as a course, not draining the golf reserve today, is the best choice”.
London's parks and recreation managers said they were aware of the protest Saturday and were monitoring it.
"City Council has made its decision, and that's the only comment we have at this time," says JP McGonigle, division manager in charge of golf for the parks and recreation department.
Manging director of parks and reactreaion Scott Stafford told CTV news that it is "highly unlikely" that the council's decision would be reversed for 2020.
Back on River Road, golfers who took to the links Saturday were impressed with the condition.
"Theyve got course maintained so they don't lose the greens and fairways, and no one is able to use it," says Jim Russell.
"There is no reason for that, other than trying to save money in the clubhouse. What is going to break budget is maintaining this place and getting no use out of it. "
Johnson says he's been talking with Ward 10 Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen, who was one of the few who voted to keep the course open.
They've been discussion possible ways to access the course.
"The COVID-19 problems all associate with the pro-shop," says Johnson.
"Lining up, paying inside, all human transactions. We are suggesting a way that you could book and pay online, and have a booked time that you basically drive up, get out and tee off. No contact with anyone except your own bubble."
About an hour after the protest started, and after some players had played a few holes, security guards made their way from the main gate to where the golfers had jumped the fence.
Johnson said he wasn't worried about trespassing.
"I have a membership, so I'd paid to be here. It's not trespassing in my opinion. Well that's what I’m going to tell the judge anyway," he said jokingly.