July 1, 2009 Edition

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Airport, club working
on course relocation

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Members of a committee representing the Walnut Ridge Country Club and the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission met last Tuesday night to discuss the feasibility of getting both organizations to work together to relocate seven holes of the club's golf course. The seven holes must be moved in order to bring the airport into compliance with Federal Aviation Administration's safety regulations.

In his ruling last month Judge Harold Erwin ordered the golf club to return the property it leases from the airport to its prelease condition. To comply, the club is being asked to move seven of the course's nine holes, and a new lease will be drawn up for the property the country club occupies. The clubhouse, swimming pool and tennis courts do not interfere with the safety zones needed by the airport.

A committee comprised of country club members and airport commissioners have been meeting twice a week since the judge's ruling to come up with a solution both sides can live with.

"We would like to give the country club a letter of intent stating that we will help them find additional land on airport property to relocate the holes," said Dan Coker, airport commission chairman "The land will have to be approved by the FAA and meet their safety requirements, and then we can work on a new lease for the golf club."

The Commission has offered the club approximately 35 acres of land near the end of runway 13-31, which they feel the FAA will approve.

Greg Gill, Country Club member, said the club would meet on June 25 and vote on whether or not to appeal the judge's ruling.

"The Country Club board has done this, not the complete membership," Gill said. "This is a membership issue, not a board issue. If we appeal, everything we've worked on is off the table.

"We want them not to appeal. We agreed we can make those acres work, even though we can't play on them right away."

At their meeting on Thursday night, the Walnut Ridge Country Club membership voted not to appeal Judge Erwin's decision, and for the committee to continue to try to work with the airport commissioners, according to Country Club Manager Jerry Winters.

"The committee will continue to meet with the commissioners to work out the details," Winters said. "If a serious problem arises during those meetings, we still have the option to appeal through Friday."

If all goes well at the meetings, the country club will begin cutting down trees by the end of this week in a show of good intent to remove the obstacles that have caused the airport to be out of compliance.

"Both sides are moving on to finalize a new lease for land to relocate the golf course outside of the aiport's safety zones," Coker said.

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