Minneapolis park board approves plan to cut down historic Hiawatha Golf Course to 9 holes

After years of indecision, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has approved a plan to cut down the historic Hiawatha Golf Course to nine holes.

A new master plan for the course was approved Wednesday night on a 6 to 3 vote by the board. The plan was crafted to overhaul the course after a major flood in 2014. Since that time, the golf course has pumped millions of gallons of groundwater into Hiawatha Lake, to the dismay of environmentalists.

On the other side of the issue, golfers have fought to save the course, pushing back against changes to a course that holds a place in Black history. Hiawatha was one of the first golf courses that allowed Black golfers to play in an era when that wasn't allowed at most courses.

Wednesday's meeting pitted Native American groups fighting to protect the environment against African American groups trying to save history.

"It is not Lakota indigenous logic to go golfing," said one speaker. "Golfing is not an indigenous value, golfing is not an indigenous value. And you owe it, shame on anyone who wants to debate this, golfing is not an indigenous value, and we have to protect the water."

"It seems to me you’ve turned a water problem into a race problem," argued another speaker. "Pitting Native Americans against African Americans. I think this is the wrong way to go, it embarrasses me, it makes race relations in our community worse. I would say vote this down and start again and do something that’s reasonable."

Ultimately, the park board voted 6 to 3 in favor of reducing the course to nine holes to try and address the problem of flooding. The board’s superintendent spoke briefly and appeared to be emotional about it.

"I fully acknowledge the vote to move forward, I also clearly hear the hurt and pain," added Superintendent Alfred Bangoura.

It’s meant to be a compromise, after months if not years of back and forth on the issue, but it leaves plenty of people unhappy.