With more than $120,000 raised so far, Friends of Westport’s Parks & Recreation is following through with its campaign to raise $225,000 by September for the construction of a new halfway house at the 9th Hole of the historic Longshore Golf Course.
On Saturday afternoon, as golfers came streaming into the park to enjoy the beautiful day, volunteers with the Friends of Parks & Recreation were stationed near the first tee handing out pledge cards and raising awareness of the project, which is being paid for entirely with private donations. Also on hand were members of the 9 ½ Hole Committee, a sub-committee of Friends of Parks & Recreation that is overseeing the project.
“We could’ve raised greens fees or found some other way to fund the project, but considering the current economy, and the fact that the town’s budget is so constrained, we decided it would best to rely on private donations,” said Janis Collins, chairman of the Westport Parks & Recreation Commission. She explained that Friends of Parks & Recreation Commission is a newly formed 501c(3) nonprofit that seeks to supplement efforts of the Parks & Recreation Commission to build and improve Westport’s parks and recreational facilities. The group kicked off its fundraising campaign for the new halfway house in early May.
The new, 750 square foot halfway house, the plans for which are nearly complete, will replace the original halfway house, which was mostly destroyed by fire in 2003. All that remains of the original structure are the restrooms, which are housed in a small, ramshackle building near the 9th Hole. The small, dilapidated trailer serving as a concession stand that was placed next to the restrooms in 2004 will also be replaced.
According to 9 ½ Hole Committee members Mark Holod (chairman) and Fred Hunter, the new halfway house will feature a concession area, restrooms, and a common area that will serve as shelter for golfers during downpours and storms. It will be located about 50 feet from the site of the current structure and about 100 feet from the green. Hunter said it was decided that the new halfway house should be a little further away from the green so that it doesn’t get pelted by as many golf balls. The current structure is only about 50 feet from the green, putting it sufficiently in the line of fire.
Holod and Hunter said the project includes contributions from various local business owners and other donors — for example local architect Jim Lothrop provided the design for the new halfway house pro bono, while other businesses have donated free building materials and specialty labor, such as foundation work. They said although the project estimate originally came in at around $300,000, the committee has been able to value engineer the cost down to about $225,000.
Collins said the committee hopes to raise the $225,000 by September. She said after receiving about $117,000 in donations in the initial round of fundraising, the committee is now launching a second, higher profile round of fundraising and is encouraging the entire community — especially residents who use the golf course — to contribute. She said the committee’s goal is to have construction begin this fall and have the halfway house completed by spring 2012. Upon completion, the new halfway house will be “given” to the town, which will then manage its operations.