By: PIERCE PANAGAKOS
After a tumultuous six months, Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation (PGCDPR) announced on Dec. 1 that the department would no longer be pursuing a collaboration with the University of Maryland to build an NCAA track and field stadium where the Paint Branch Golf Complex (PBGC) is located.
Bridget Stesney, division chief of Park Planning and Development, PGCDPR, released a statement detailing that, while the county initially welcomed the university’s 2019 proposal to redevelop the complex, the county is no longer considering that as a viable option.
“After several months of conversations with residents and community stakeholders, the University and the Department have determined that the Paint Branch Golf Course will not be used for this purpose,” Stesney wrote in an email. She suggested, however, that the county and university might pursue other projects in the future. “Groundwork has been laid for future collaboration between the University and the Department of Parks and Recreation,” she wrote. The planned Purple Line will require portions of the university’s track and field stadium to be demolished.
Friends of Paint Branch Golf, a group that opposed plans to redevelop the complex, received Stesney’s email and welcomed the decision. The group met virtually on Dec. 2 to celebrate their apparent victory and discuss ways to improve the complex going forward.
Dr. Keith Strong, a member of Friends of Paint Branch Golf who has been at the forefront of the movement to save the golf complex, expressed caution. “The message sounded good,” he said, but he also wondered if the county and university might revisit changes to the golf complex at some point.
Strong described PBGC as “not a money sink, but a money source” and noted that the complex had remained profitable through the pandemic. He also stated that the driving range and the course at PBGC both brought in similar amounts of revenue, although the driving range is likely more profitable due to lower maintenance costs.
Friends of Paint Branch discussed a number of options to promote use of the complex, including establishing a winter league, offering a spring tune-up course to help golfers shake the rust off their swing after not playing for a few months, and promoting PBGC to younger golfers and students. The group strongly supported forming a player-based advisory committee that would work with the complex’s management to improve the course over time.
While the university and the county’s plans to build a track and field stadium at another site in College Park remain up in the air, one thing for certain is that PBGC is not going anywhere in the near future. And those who are glad that its presence is ensured, at least for the foreseeable future, have the Friends of Paint Branch Golf to thank for that.