Finding a Positive in COVID-19

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We’ve all experienced it — the Corona Coaster. One moment you’re coping relatively well with our new reality and the next you’re filled with grief, anger and anxiety. Finding things that are better since COVID-19 is a challenge, but I found one.

More than a month ago, I joined my 92-year-old friend, Majorie Bissinger, for her morning constitutional.

We started to walk Audubon Park’s popular 1.7-mile walking, jogging and biking route, the one that circles the park. But after less than a yard, after encountering hordes of mask-less walkers, avid bikers zooming past us and huffing and puffing runners, we quickly left that autobahn of contagion and escaped to the bucolic beauty of the Audubon Golf Course’s cart trails.

Ah, the serenity. And we weren’t alone. Lovers languished beneath 100-year-old live oaks, young families picnicked by the roses and toddlers built castles in the sand traps.

The golf course closed to golfers on March 21 as it followed COVID-19 outbreak safety guidelines and officially opened to the public.

I’ve never understood the charm of golf, but it certainly must be in part due to those emerald green fairways, soft rolling hills, lush landscapes and calming lagoons.

“Ahh, nature! Isn’t it grand,” my companion often exclaimed as we strolled through the course.

The golf course at Audubon Park was designed by Denis Griffiths, an acclaimed golf course architect. It’s a competitive 18-hole, par 62 course that offers a 4,220-yard layout.

Sadly, today will be the last day we’ll be able to ramble on the course because tomorrow it will reopen as Audubon Nature Institute progresses with its phased recovery.

However, that’s decidedly good news for the golf course as it is facing a devastating financial outlook due to the closure. The Audubon Nature Institute has furlough or laid off hundreds of employees, including 53 full- and part-time staff from the golf course and golf clubhouse. Nearly 30,000 rounds of golf are enjoyed annually, bringing in revenue that supports the upkeep and maintenance of the course and other areas in the park.

Img 3378The golf course follows the reopening of Audubon Riverview Park (also known as the “Fly”) to vehicles and Audubon Tennis. Audubon Zoo is making plans to reopen in early June to limited capacity.

According to the organization’s press release, since its closure, Audubon Institute has lost an estimated 44 percent of this year’s self-generated operating revenue and was excluded from federal recovery funds due to its size.

The institute typically welcomes 750,000 visitors over the summer months. It estimates nearly an 80 percent decrease this year due to a number of factors including limited capacity, pausing groups and field trips and decreased tourism visitation.

“Now, more than ever, our community needs parks and recreation,” said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. “We are eager to safely welcome visitors back to our facilities and programs through a carefully planned, phased approach.”

The public can join Audubon’s recovery effort by supporting the animals and parks in their care as Audubon staff work to sustain core operations and ensure the long-term viability of the organization. Visit AudubonRecoveryFund.com for more information.

As Margie and I bid adieu she excitedly exclaims, “Guess I better take up golf!”

 

 

Categories: Labors of Love

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