Throughout the 1940s, 1950s and into the 1960s, the Town of Monticello in southeastern Utah was home to a large uranium mill consuming nearly 100 acres. Located right in the heart of town, the mill was the biggest industry in Monticello and subsidized by the U.S. Government for its part in defense efforts. The mill and processing of uranium had kept the town alive. Beginning in the 1980s, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) had undertaken removal of the mill site. An enormous “depository” on an adjacent parcel of land was built to bury radioactive debris collected from the mill site, as well as debris from throughout the town. Potentially radioactive soils were removed from a 30 square mile area. As part of the clean up process, the town was eventually offered a buyout if it agreed to acquire the old mill site. Since the mill land was now under federal oversight, the best use was to return it, once totally clean, to the public. Under directives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the DOE not only had to clean up the mill site, but also restore the land to a natural condition. The DOE wanted to find the best possible use for the land, one that would assist the city in both environmental and economic terms.
Because the mill site had been located right across the highway from an old nine-hole golf course, it was felt that there might be potential for an expansion of the course using the land occupied by the old mill. This idea was thought to be even more feasible as a result of the DOE’s commitment to return land to a suitable condition, but also to help restore economic vitality to Monticello. During the previous twenty years there had not been much of an economic base in the town due to the closure of the mill and it was determined that an expanded golf course could provide a needed economic boost.
The golf course architects and team of consultants assisted the town in determining the physical viability and environmental issues involved in the expansion and development of the golf course. Among the environmental considerations were flood engineering, stabilization of hillside topsoil, wetlands establishment and configuration, wildlife corridors and habitat enhancement, long term water quality, public access to the restored site and stream alignment. Both the DOE and EPA requested that a creek once flowing through the property be reestablished with native wetlands and stabilized hillsides. The conclusion was that environmental considerations could be met through the development of a golf course at the mill site with no negative effect to restoration. In fact, the operation and maintenance requirements of the golf course would be positive to the long term viability and stabilization of the site.
An economic feasibility study was undertaken by the town to determine whether an 18-hole course could be supported. Although the small nine-hole course had operated in the town for 40 years, it was frequented mostly by locals. The golf course architects and consultant team concluded that Monticello could realize annual income from a “new and improved” 18-hole course, providing that the following criteria was met: the town would receive approximately seven million dollars in compensation under agreements with the federal government upon restoration of the mill, the development cost would be less than six million dollars, the course would need to be designed to attract its predominant play from outside the area and there would need to be extensive marketing of the course.
In order to satisfy both environmental and economic criteria, a variety of options were explored in the preliminary routing of the golf course including using the existing nine holes and adding nine more on the mill site or scrapping the existing course and building the entire facility on the mill site. The terrain of the old uranium mill proved to be a difficult site due to its steep slopes that were void of any vegetation. Four routing plans were prepared for using the old mill site and each was thoroughly studied for probable cost and environmental issues. The golf course architects then suggested a fifth, somewhat controversial, alternative to build a golf course apart from the old mill land, on detached land. The result would be to restore the mill land as required by the DOE and EPA, but not undertake a golf development on the mill site. There would be two simultaneous projects, one to restore the old mill land and another to build a new golf course. One of the key objectives was a continuation of the town’s greenbelt and wildlife corridor. By acquiring land adjacent to the existing golf course, and adding it to the restored mill land, a large and expansive area of open space was created for the community. Ultimately, the city acquired the land to fulfill this option.
Construction on The Hideout Golf Club began in 2000 and continued for 18 months. Earthmoving involved just 80,000 cubic yards, with holes carefully routed in natural glens and across ridges. The work included a fully automatic irrigation system delivering water to 85 acres of turf. Site obstacles involved naturally running springs, wetlands habitats and logging of forested areas. Through advance cutting of centerlines across the site, the golf course architects were able to work with the golf course builder to work out effective solutions for environmentally sensitive areas of the course that needed to be preserved during construction. The existing stream running through the property had been altered and relocated for ranching operations several decades earlier and was an environmental issue within in the community. Through the construction of the golf course, the stream was restored to its historic alignment and incorporated wetland pockets, stabilized grassland slopes and a trail system.
In working closely with representatives of the town and regulatory agencies, the golf course architects and design team were able develop a financially successful golf course for Monticello that provided numerous environmental benefits:
– By thinking “outside the box,” the approach to the project allowed more dollars to be spent on environmental restoration work by improving the mill site as a separate work contract.
– The acquisition for more acreage adjacent to the old uranium mill created an expansive and fluid greenbelt that now connects the town with continuous open space of a national forest.
– Wildlife and residents benefit from the now continuous land which accounts for open space through the town. Wildlife now has an unobstructed (and protected) corridor to move across an existing highway from low to high ground.
– Extra funds saved by the town will eventually be used to develop an interpretative center which explains the uranium legacy of the region. This was never a planned program component of the project, but is now feasible as a result of the creative funding and work strategy.
– Revegetation of the mill site for golf would have required far more intense work and budget than for passive recreation and open space.
– Water use is significantly reduced by keeping golf uses together and contiguous as opposed to separated by a highway; separation would have meant two water reservoirs and significant pumping (energy use, etc.).
– Wetlands were increased by six acres by adding wetlands environments to the golf course areas and by restoring wetlands through the old mill site.
– Arthur Jack Snyder, ASGCA & Forrest Richardson, ASGCA
– Forrest Richardson and Associates
– Daylen, Inc., GBCAA