There is still a lot to be done at Last Hill Golf Course, despite the recent redesignation of the land from agricultural to recreational.
At the July 6 council meeting, the Lacombe County council decided in favour of rezoning the land of the Last Hill Golf Course near Eckville to allow for a 100-site RV campground.
Bill Mclean, owner of Last Hill through Eckville Real Estate Holdings Ltd., said the redesignation is only the completion to one step, and there are still more to go.
“We needed the rezoning for the campground for us to proceed with revitalizing the grounds,” Mclean said in a recent interview with the Eckville Echo.
The owning group decided at the very beginning, when purchasing the property, to add a what will be a 160 stall campground for recreational vehicles. Phase one of the redevelopment project will see 100 RV site created, with the final 60 put in during phase two of the plan.
Having the campground was vitally important to the owners, as their business model depends on the use of a campground.
“The campground is our main money maker, with the golf course as more of a amenity for the camp,” said Mclean.
The completion of this step, surrounds a lot of activity Mclean called invisible.
These mini-steps have been done behind the scenes as the owners waited for rezoning approval.
Behind the scenes there has been a lot of activity including, gaining a water licence and drilling water wells for the campsite.
“All that work has been kind of invisible because the people in Eckville can’t really see it being done when they drive past,” Mclean said.
Next for the group will be seeking Council approval on a development agreement for the property.
This agreement will include the plans for the property, campground and golf course.
Mclean says it has to include engineering plans and road ways.
“We are going to build an internal road from the main entrance to the campground,” he explained.
To make room for the campground, the golf course will be shortened from it’s existing 18-holes to 12.
Mclean says there has been some contention over the shortening of the course, but he believes it is because 12 is an unusual number for a golf course.
“Most golfers are used to either an 18 or 9-hole course, and 12 isn’t usually done,” said Mclean. “But, a 12-hole course has been done before and has been successful. We see no reason why it wouldn’t be here as well.”
There is a lot of work still to be done on the golf course itself.
Because the property has not been in use since 2009, much of the grounds have become either overrun or died.
As such a lot of tending to the grounds, and regrowing has to be done before the course can be opened to the public.
“I don’t want to make any promises about opening and disappoint some people. It’s been abandoned and there is a lot of work that needs to be done,” Mclean said.
Because the course needs to regrow, all of the greens on the course have been replaced, Mclean doesn’t expect the course to be ready to open until the 2019 season.
“Maybe the end of the 2018 season, but you can’t rush growing time.”
The owners have redeveloped the driving range. While it is technically ready for use, Mclean says it isn’t open to golfers yet.
The is because the owners of the property want to open the entire course at the same time, and have it “all ready, not just part of it.”
If everything goes as planned with the development plan, Mclean says work on the campground could begin as early as this fall.
However, that is the best case scenario, and doesn’t expect to be able to get work going until the spring.
“We haven’t even considered winter construction. It doesn’t fit into our model and it much more expensive.”
Once work begins, Mclean expects the process to run fairly quickly saying it should only take a few months of work to complete the campground.
While there have been some concerns, and some are upset about the lack of opening date, Mclean says generally the people of the nearby areas have been very positive about the venture.
Those Mclean has spoken to have been both positive and excited about the project.
“We want to keep our customers happy, and to have a good relationship with the Town and people of Eckville,” said Mclean.