On a bustling Saturday morning more that 40 protesters anchored both sides of Newberry Road in front of the neglected West End Golf course property involved in a rezoning application.
Vehicles passing by the area on Oct.10th were honking in support of keeping the green space green.
If the owner Peter Min of Pepine Realty gets his way, the property will be rezoned so he can make millions of dollars in profit from his investment and make way for a developer who plans to infill the greens with 487 homes and apartments and some businesses.
The developer argues that golf is on the way out. The protestors argue that Min purposely shut down the course and continues to let it fall apart to make it look that way.
The once vibrant golf course that stayed open after dark now has dilapidated buildings, greens that have turned into fields of 8-feet tall weeds, hundreds of unkempt heritage trees that are weakening and falling over the cement golf cart pathways and near neighboring homes.
What the residents of the communities surrounding the green space want is for the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners to help them come up with a plan or at least protect the space by retaining the recreational zoning. It’s one of the rare recreation spaces on the west side of Alachua County.
Golfer and West End resident Michael MacNeill and his twin sons Hudson and Holden, 10, want the property to stay green.
Holden said he wants to, “Have someone buy it and have a golf course or have them cut the grass and have a park, or a playground maybe. As long as it’s not businesses and apartments.”
Hudson said he doesn’t want the area to, “Have buildings. Make it parks, or keep it a golf course.”
The Meadowbrook Elementary students made their own signs with the messages: “Let me grow up GREEN” and “Recreation not Retail.”
Their father, Michael MacNeill, was a regular golfer at West End Golf, and used to take the boys out with him. Then the boys both got involved in the Gator Junior Golf Association made up of more than 180 young golfers learning the game at courses throughout Alachua County and also learning life lessons in sportsmanship and responsibility.
One sign along the course is a reminder that West End Golf was the home of many Junior Golf tournaments in the past.
One of those Gator Junior Golf Association coaches, Paul Hornby stood along with the MacNeill family.
For Michael MacNeill, it’s more than keeping the green space as a golf course.
His sign reads, “Stay Green There is No Planet B” with a photo planet earth.
“Keep it green,” he said. “There’s enough traffic out here and I want to keep it green for these guys’ sake,” he said about his sons. “I want to keep the planet as green as possible.”
Other messages from protestors who showed up representing Tioga, Arbor Greens, The Greens, The Villas North and South, Villages of West End and the Patio Homes of West End echoed those sentiments.
“More Building, More Traffic, We The People Need Green Space, Rezone? No!, No Rezone, God Gave Us Green Space, Let’s Keep It,” were some of those messages.
Organizers of the event known as “Friends of West End,” say they continue to gather evidence and expert witnesses to help deliver their message to the BOCC.
Treasurer for the Friends of West End Stephanie Phillips said the GoFundMe account established to pay for legal and defense costs is at $16,000 in donations.
Homeowner and Golfer Masuma Downie with the Friend of West End said they, “Are learning more about the caves and sinkholes located on the property.”
And the group is waiting for a hearing date to be set by the County as they gather evidence to argue that the rezoning application should not be approved.