Saving Lakewood’s RedTail Golf Club

Resident surrounding Lakewood’s RedTail Golf Course packed a Village Board meeting that was considering selling the property.

The Village Board was intimidated and backed off on the idea.

But that didn’t result in enough revenue coming in to solve the enterprise’s financial problems.

Village officials have known the golf course was in financial trouble since at least 2010.

And, of course, long-time residents know that it did not pay for itself, as promised.

Greens fees had to be supplemented with years and years of higher property tax bills. (I remember $500 a year to subsidize the course.)

Erin Smith

Erin Smith

In 2010, Village President Erin Smith said,

“We’re worried about the short-term.”

“If we have the same revenues we have this year, we may not be able to run it all year.”

I had shared a revenue-raising idea with our Village Administrator Catherine Peterson and last week she asked if I might be interested in presenting it to Board members.

I couldn’t attend the meeting, so I sent this email:

I’ve got an out-of-the box suggestion of how to raise money for a clubhouse or other improvements for the golf course.

I’d present them in person, but I will not be back in Crystal Lake until about 6:30 Tuesday. By then I imagine the public comment period will be over. (I’d be happy to come then, if you would let me speak, however.)

I got this idea when I heard that there were two lots that could be sold for home sites.

That’s a fair amount of ground.

How could the village maximize its return?

My suggestion is to use them, plus other peripheral land, as a cemetery.

Certainly out-of-the box, right?

But implementation of the idea would probably bring in more money than any other use.

I have sent Catherine links to several articles, one of which is about a funeral home which created a golf green for the sole purpose of being a focal point for grave sites.

Red Tail Golf Course

Red Tail Golf Course would look no different if no tombstones were allowed.

What are the biggest expenses for a cemetery?

Ground maintenance is my guess.

And, that we already have in place.

Burial sites would not have to be limited to the two lots. I imagine there are other parts of the golf course that could be used.

In addition, you might want to consider allowing pets to buried on the course.

There may be another pet cemetery nearby, but I don’t know where.

Deciding to go this route might or might not be enough to finance a club house, but it would provide a stream of revenue not available now.

And, the resulting publicity would certainly be worth tens of thousands of dollars of advertising.

The question, of course, is whether neighbors care enough about preserving and improving the golf course to allow for nearby graves.

Those of use who are not neighbors would be indifferent, I would suggest.

There would be no tombstones to be seen and the Board could obviously also prohibit the display of flowers above grave markers that dot cemeteries like Woodstock’s on Route 14.

So, the views could remain the same, except for interment days.

To my surprise, the Northwest Herald decided to do a Saturday article on the idea.

So, I thought, why not let anyone interested read the entire email, instead of just excerpts that fit into the paper?

Lakewood has found money to repave the south parking lot at its RedTail Golf Club.

Lakewood found money to repave the south parking lot at its RedTail Golf Club.

Lots of money was spent on a new parking lot last year.

Eventually, this enterprise will no longer be able to present the facade of financing itself.

One alternative is to pass a special tax to pay for capital improvements, even a club house.

My prediction is that such a referendum would have no chance of passing.

But, to keep the golf course up and running, some new source of revenue will be needed.

If someone can come up with a better idea than using marginal land for graves, step right up.


Saving Lakewood’s RedTail Golf Club — 5 Comments

  1. I’m aware of one interesting golf course repurposing that is in the offing for McHenry County.

    A few months ago, a sustainable farming operation took title to a local course.

    The draw for the buyers? The underground irrigation system. What once watered greens will instead water gardens.

    Here are some other ideas for repurposing golf courses:

    Amphitheater/concert venue (akin to Ravinia, perhaps?)
    Botanical garden (akin to Chicago Botanical Garden?)
    Manicured gardens (Japanese? English? French? Etc.)
    Seasonal flower gardens for staging a community festival (examples: Holland, MI: Tulip Time; Lombard, IL: Lilac Fest)
    Community supported agriculture (CSA) and community garden plots
    Truck gardens
    Organic produce
    Tree and shrub nurseries
    Herb/mushroom/medicinal plant farms
    Fisherman’s dude ranch
    Turf farms
    Energy farm: wind/solar/geothermal

    With care and creativity, Red Tail could be parceled out for two or more of these activities.

    Commercial operations might also return parts of the property to the tax rolls.

  2. There are still a lot of golf courses in the Chicagoland area, both public and private, that are not doing well financially.

    Most were hit hard by the 2007 financial meltdown which was caused in part by investors either not realizing or accounting for the risk of mortgage backed securities and collateralized debt obligations (CDO’s).

    Property owners with houses bordering golf courses may not realize the current financial condition of the golf course or the redevelopment options available to golf courses.

    Buyer beware.

  3. You’re only talking 2 lots adjacent to the golf course intended for homesites right? ?
    ********************How about what our Bull Valley Village President did?****************************

    President Ron Parrish and his village board took a parcel of land (roughly the size of plots you’re talking about – a couple of acres) and turned it into a membership only dog park for Bull Valley and Woodstock residents.

    They have thousands upon thousands of more dollars than when they used to rent it out to a farmer.

    They bail hay on the back half and sell it, and use the old barn to rent out recreational vehicles.

    Crystal Lakers have boats.

    Bull Valley doesn’t even have a lake and they fill it every year!

    Due to the location this could serve all of Lakewood and Lake in the Hills and Crystal Lake!

    You just don’t see Village Presidents and Trustees being creative even when it has to be done to fix their stupid mistakes!

    Ron Parrish is the exception to the rule!!!

    He also garnered a Senior Citizen Volunteer workforce from the village to mow the common land, paint the barn, help bail the hay and manage the rental of the barn for rec vehicles!!!!!!


    This guy should give lessons on how to run a village! They were $200K in debt when he took over. Now they’ve got 126K+ in reserve!!!

    Ron Parrish also running for McHenry County Trustee.

    Make sure you vote for him!

    He will “STOP THE TAX HIKES at MCC!”

  4. Why are Villages trying to compete with the private sector anyway?

    And on the taxpayers dime?

    Is it because they aren’t happy enough with just being Village President? They have to be mayor of golf courses too?

    Did the citizens want this? Was there a public vote on it?

    These are dangerous times we live in!

    Don’t they have another debacle going on in Lakewood right now, promising the moon with some baseball development?


    Next thing you know they’ll be buying shopping malls and hotels, bars and restaurants so they can create their OWN little town within a town, and all off the backs of the working tax payers!

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