Submitted: By Brett Spangler. Brett runs the Facebook group Save Oshkosh’s Public Land: A grassroots effort to save Lakeshore Golf Course from big corporations and keep public land where it belongs: with the public.
The recent article promoting the sale of Lakeshore Golf Course both saddened and frustrated me. I have lived here for the past 15 years, and over that time I’ve come to realize how valuable all of Oshkosh’s parks are. Having many outdoor recreational spaces available to the people of this city is so incredibly important that we cannot risk losing even one. The quality of life is greatly increased when people have something to do and enjoy outside of their regular 9-5 job.
Some people within the City Council and GO EDC are trying to make Lakeshore solely about the money, but that has never been what parks are about. Parks weren’t created to make money, they were created for the people to enjoy. Nobody ever asks how much debt Menominee Park or South Park has, so I cannot understand why the same argument can be made about Lakeshore. I understand that not everybody golfs, but not everybody goes to Pollock Pool, or has kids in the Oshkosh school system, or uses the police force, or calls the fire and rescue services, yet we all still pay for those. If you are going to argue that it is about the money for one park, it must be about the money for all of the parks and taxpayer-funded services.
The previous article references needing to think of the future, so I’m going to do just that. Eventually, whether it be 10 years or 100 years, the business that would theoretically develop Lakeshore for a corporate headquarters will be gone. They will either go out of business, or they will outlive their building and need to find a new property once again. They will then leave behind a vacant office building that may have trouble selling due to its size. The housing that is also promised could eventually fall into the wrong hands that makes the neighborhood undesirable to walk around in and enjoy. The point is that once we sell that land, the public is never getting it back. We need to think about what will be best for the next generation and the generation after that. A corporate office building that could follow the examples of the Granary building or the Buckstaff building are not what I would like to leave behind.
Some people also seem to be under the impression that if Oshkosh Corporation, the party most frequently rumored to be interested, doesn’t get the Lakeshore property, they will leave. That will never happen. If Oshkosh Corp is half the company that people say they are, they will never stoop to that level and give an ultimatum. They’re a better company than that.
The last point that I disagree with is that Lakeshore is the key to Oshkosh’s economic success. If Lakeshore is the only thing propping Oshkosh up, then Oshkosh has big problems. There are so many other available spaces for businesses to develop; we don’t need to sacrifice Lakeshore. The old K-Mart still stands vacant, as does the old JC Penney and industrial district beyond the old Buckstaff building.
Not only that, but there is so much open, undeveloped space along I-41 that any company could build a very large headquarters on. Why can’t a company that wants to buy Lakeshore buy any other available piece of property in Oshkosh? There may be a reason one or two of the available properties wouldn’t work, but the probability that all of the other pieces of land are unsuitable is near zero.
Nobody is denying that Oshkosh should be able to thrive economically, it just shouldn’t be at the expense of the public’s land. We should be able to easily accommodate any company looking to build a headquarters without selling Lakeshore.
Brett Spangler has been an Oshkosh resident since 2002. He currently studies Accounting and Finance at UW-Oshkosh and serves as a senator in the Oshkosh Student Association. His views are his own unless stated otherwise.
(photo courtesy of Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course)