Parts of Peter Hansen’s favorite golf course were flooded. Again.
As the Pineapple Express storm swept through Ventura County on Sunday, the bus driver from Camarillo drove along the 92-year-old course that he described as good for morale because of its shorter, more forgiving holes. Hansen was already frustrated because the city-owned Ventura track had been closed for more than a year due to damage from the 2023 storms. Hansen saw the water and worried he might never be able to tee off there again.
“I said, ‘This isn’t good,’” he remembered thinking.
The track’s future remains at least partly cloudy, but if the track doesn’t reopen, it won’t be because of the storm caused by an atmospheric river.
City officials said the track suffered only about $16,000 in damage, relative pennies compared to the estimated cost of $10 million or more to repair damage caused by tons of sediment and mud that covered the track after the Santa Clara River flooded it on Jan. 9 2023 flooded. .
This time sand traps are filled with water. Ducks swam in temporary lakes. A tree was lost and part of the irrigation control equipment was damaged.
“It was pretty small,” said Stacey Zarazua, the city’s parks and recreation director.
Opened in 1932, the course has developed a loyal following, in part because its shorter length acts as a balm on golfers’ egos. The country’s long-term future remains largely dependent on funding the Federal Emergency Management Agency and finding ways to reduce the risk of future flooding.
But city officials said parts of the track could potentially reopen in the short term, aimed at regaining some of the revenue lost during the long closure.
It’s not clear exactly when such a reopening could happen, but the course could be ready fairly soon, said Deputy City Manager Brad “Brick” Conners.
“We think we can play at least nine holes,” he said. The final call for a temporary, partial reopening would come from the city council, as would key decisions about repairs and the future of the trail.
“The potential exists,” Conners said of a full opening. “Several things need to be done.”
‘Like the hand of God’
In January 2023, heavy rain turned the course into a gigantic lake, which also flooded the snack bar and pro shop. After the water drained, fairways, greens and sand traps were covered in thick, choking layers of mud and silt.
The sediment was removed and much of the grass survived, raising hopes that the track could survive and reopen. Barriers remain.
This file photo shows what Buenaventura Golf Course looked like after it was flooded in January 2023. The future of the Ventura track remains uncertain.
Almost all dozens of sand traps on the course were destroyed during the flood. Two greens also need to be rebuilt in expensive projects that involve irrigation problems and drainage repairs.
“It looks like the hand of God came in and wiped them out,” Ventura Mayor Joe Schroeder said of the damaged putting surfaces. “There is a hole where the green used to be.”
The course is located in a floodplain. Conners said the city is in discussions about possible mitigation plans that could help protect the trail from flooding. These changes may include some layout changes and would be limited to the course and not the Santa Clara River. The restriction would have to be reviewed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The city received approval for funding from FEMA, but the exact reimbursement level remains unknown, Conners said. The city’s insurance company must also validate the financing claim to open the FEMA pipeline.
Big decisions are coming
Schroeder said he has been told FEMA will cover 75% of the costs and 15% or more will be covered by other sources, leaving the balance to be paid to the city.
He cited the 80,000 rounds of golf once played annually in Buenaventura to express support for reopening if FEMA reimbursement money materializes. The opening could happen in phases, from 9 holes to 12 holes to the full 18, he said.
But the mayor also said mitigation is needed to protect the track from future flooding.
“If we can do that… I’m open to investing in the course,” he said.
City Councilwoman Liz Campos said she needs to see an exact plan before revealing how she will vote. But she also believes the course and other urban locations that are on the ocean or river should be pushed back at least a quarter mile to reduce the chance of future storms causing deja vu.
“That whole area will be affected by climate change over the next decade,” she said, suggesting the risks of damage will increase.
Hansen, the golfer from Camarillo, often drives past the campsite. He emails city leaders and others for status updates. The fairways looked so good before the recent storm that he had trouble understanding why the course had not been reopened.
He remains hopeful.
“That’s my favorite course and I can’t wait for it to happen,” he said of the opening.
Tom Kisken covers health care and other news for the Ventura County Star. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0255.