Neighbors rebuke proposed $3M for Cobbs Creek Golf Course restoration at public budget hearing

Residents argue the funds should be put toward other city projects

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Restoration of the Cobbs Creek Golf Course was a surprise hot topic at Philadelphia City Council’s public hearing on the city budget Tuesday.

The project received more comments than any other topic — and it was unanimously negative. At least a dozen speakers teed off on the issue, urging Council to remove the $3 million budgeted for the course over the next two years.

The course closed in 2020 because the city lacked the funding to address erosion and safety issues caused by years of flooding from Cobbs Creek. A group of well-heeled golf enthusiasts swooped in, creating the Cobbs Creek Foundation and raising $65 million to restore the course and add a double-decker driving range, in addition to the other amenities.

The city agreed to lease the course to them for $1 per year.

The foundation did extensive community outreach, holding a series of meetings beginning in July 2021, but neighbors said they were caught off guard when the trees began coming down earlier this year. The project hit another snag when the Philadelphia Art Commission rejected its design proposal last month.

“The Cobbs Creek Foundation, which is behind the project, is backed by billionaires who have more than enough money to complete the project without taxpayer money,” said the first witness at Tuesday’s hearing.

Other neighbors weighed in: “Their $1 lease with the city requires that they pay for all improvements to the golf course and flood plain themselves.”

“A golf course that will primarily be used by wealthy people from out of town,” said one neighbor.

“They cut down 108 acres of healthy trees, including at least 500 heritage trees,” added another.

There was no testimony on the new tax assessments; only a few mentions of crime. There were advocates for schools, libraries, pools, and a couple of other organized groups, including advocates for seed funding of a public bank and Penn employees in favor of the university paying taxes.

But none inspired the passion that speaker Nicole Chandler, for example, showed about Cobbs Creek.

“I’m requesting that the $3 million that you got for the golf course, that you put it to pay for all of the green space in Morris Park and Overbrook,” she said.

Parks and Rec spokesperson Maita Soukup differentiated the golf course from the larger plan to restore the park.

"The Cobbs Creek Golf Course is a nationally recognized historic course,” she said in a statement. “The Administration supports plans to restore this seminal site in the history of Black golf in this country.

“After decades of serious flooding and degradation, the Cobbs Creek Golf Course is receiving a $65 million investment from the non-profit Cobbs Creek Foundation. Along with restoring the historic course, the project will address frequent flooding in Southwest Philadelphia by creating a 37-acre wetland and rebuilding over 3 miles of creek and tributaries.”

Soukup said the proposed $3 million would support the efforts to protect Cobbs Creek from future flooding and erosion.