Oakland Co. golf course on par for public park

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Sunset at Addison Oaks County Park

When Beech Woods Golf Course closed in 2019, many ideas were pitched to the city of Southfield during the public input survey on how to repurpose the greenspace. Some ideas included an amphitheater and splash pad, but one common consensus persisted. 

“Everybody agreed we want a walking trail,” said Southfield’s Mayor Kenson Siver.

Proposed example boardwalk to accompany future trails. Courtesy Oakland County Parks and Recreation.

In November of 2023, a partnership was approved through Oakland County’s Healthy Communities Park and Outdoor Recreation Investment Plan to redevelop the golf course into the latest Oakland County park, to be named Southfield Oaks.

The city of Southfield is home to over 75,000 residents and lies just 20 minutes outside of Detroit. Although Southfield is on the southern border of Oakland County, 10 of the 14 county parks are located in the northern half of the county.

“It’s harder for people that live in south Oakland. If they want to go to a park, you have to drive half an hour or more [to do] so,” Mayor Siver said.

Sunset at Addison Oaks County Park, Oakland County Parks and Recreation’s northernmost park. Credit Gabrielle Ahlborn.

According to the National Golf Foundation, Michigan is the number one state for publicly accessible golf courses. However, before the pandemic, the demand for golf courses had significantly declined, with courses all over the nation closing down operations for good.

Southfield was home to two public courses, Beech Woods and Evergreen Hills.

“We were subsidizing to the tune of almost $400,000 a year to keep two courses going,” Mayor Siver said. “It was decided to close one of the courses because we couldn’t justify the expenditure.”

Former golf courses also come with a load of environmental concerns, often regarding the heavy use of fertilizers. 

According to researchers from Michigan State University, excessive chemical fertilizer usage can stimulate microbes in the soil to produce more nitrous-oxide, one of the leading greenhouse gasses in the destruction of the ozone layer. Beyond its contribution to climate change, chemical fertilizers also have toxic effects on waterways by creating significant algae blooms, suffocating fish and wildlife by depleting oxygen, and increasing acidity.

Once lands have been degraded by overuse of chemical fertilizers, it can be extremely difficult and take a significant amount of time to restore the natural pH balance. Researchers Samantha Mosier and S. Carolina Cardova from MSU have found promising results in a process called perennialization, the incorporation of perennial crops in long rotations, to organically restore soil health.

Erik Koppin, chief of park operations and maintenance for Oakland County’s South District, said there are no unusual procedures for this particular site.

“There is a due-care plan that our environmental consultants have put together for us,” Koppin said. “It’s basically just making sure that we’re not moving a lot of soils around [or] taking them off-site.”

As plans are finalized, a proposed construction and management plan will be released for public comment and available through oakgov.com.  

“We’re really excited to kick off this project and add another beautiful park space for the residents of Oakland County and the city of Southfield,” Koppin said.