On warm summer days, students will spread out a picnic lunch on the grass. In the fall, cross country runners burn a trail around the perimeter. And in the winter, its hills — really the only ones in Bowling Green — are filled with red-cheeked sledders.
While the former Forrest Creason Golf Course may look like it’s a park, it is not.
A Bowling Green State University student group is aiming to change that.
Gage Stephens, community liaison for the Environmental Action Group, said the land on the north side of campus off Mercer and Poe roads should officially be a park, and maintained as such.
“It’s a really great area. Our group goes out there all the time and has picnics. We all go out there and go running. It definitely gets used,” he said. “We would just like to see it more supported by the university.”
The former golf course is 137 acres.
“It can be just an official park next to BGSU and that would be a major attraction for potential students, and the community can use it. It’d be a win for everyone.”
Stephens said the land is now being used for cross country meets, ROTC training and limnology (the study of lakes and ponds) labs.
“It’s getting used, but we would like to see it designated an area for students,” he said. “It falls within BGSU’s statement of how they want to support their students — their mental health.
“It’s shown that having a place to go outdoors and be away from all the busy-ness of campus is really beneficial for students.”
There are two parking lots, including the one by the former clubhouse and another by the hill near Interstate 75 on the former back nine holes of the course.
The park would need official trails and designations, with regular upkeep, Stephens said. Plans could build off the existing course layout.
“It would be building off that, then maintaining the invasive population,” he said. “And a plaque that says ‘BGSU greenspace.’”
That plan will cost money, which the university is not able to commit at this time, Stephens said.
He and other Environmental Action Group members met recently with President Rodney Rogers, where the cost was an issue. Stephens added that he does not have a monetary figure for park upkeep.
“Which I get, we’re not really bringing anything to the table,” he said, adding that the group is going to look at pursuing grants.
“That’s the next step, for EAG to start looking at grants, that we can help make this a reality.”
In a statement, the university said that the status of the former golf course will remain on the back burner until the coronavirus pandemic is over.
“Given our focus on slowing the spread of COVID-19 and navigating the global pandemic, BGSU has not made any long-term decisions regarding the green space of the former Forrest Creason Golf Course,” said Alex Solis, deputy chief of staff and university spokesperson.
“This crisis has taught us to be flexible and adaptable, and we are certainly keeping all our options open at this time. The pandemic has already had a significant impact on real estate development plans, and we are still learning what BGSU may look? like in a post-COVID-19 world. In the meantime, the current space is being utilized by our cross country programs. It is also open to students, faculty, staff, along with the public. It has great walking and running paths and a hill, which is popular during the snowy weather.”
Stephens said the park plan has been in the works since 2019 and was slowed by COVID-19.
“That’s been one of our projects for about three semesters now. We started last fall,” he said. “We knew when we started this project it was going to be a long-term project.
“We’ve worked our way through all the different steps on campus and now we’re trying to work in community outreach.”
A petition to make the former Forest Creason a park has more than 800 signatures, he said.
“We’re making sure that people knew what the green space was, that it was an old golf course and it’s just kind of there,” Stephens said.
They also reached out to undergraduate and graduate student government groups and faculty and staff for support. They are now looking for community input.
A park makes sense for that area, instead of a technology area or parking, Stephens said. The university just opened a new high-tech business building. A parking lot that far east of campus would not be used, he added.
There has been no discussion about returning it to a golf course, Stephens said. The city already has two courses and the BGSU men’s and women’s teams use Stone Ridge Golf Course for practice.
“Turning a golf course into a park is very hard on an ecological level … because of all the different plants that have been planted there for the golf course,” added Stephens, who is a biology major in his last semester at BGSU.
“We have a great biology department who would love to tackle that.”
Stephens referenced a strategic land development analysis that was done by BGSU students on the former golf course. It looked at several use options including green space, a conference center and a sports facility. The group also studied leasing the land to developers or farmers.
It concluded that green space was the best use because the land would stay university owned, be low cost and popular with the community.
The Environmental Action Group has been active on campus since the 1970s, Stephens said.
“We’re one of the older groups on campus, student-ran groups. We focus on environmental issues on and off campus,” he said.
Past projects have been addressing the Nexus Pipeline and plastic bags.
“We really focus on the action portion of EAG and making stuff actually change — that’s what really strive for,” Stephens said.
There are about 50 members, with 30 active and 10 on the board.
Forrest Creason closed in fall 2017 after 52 years of operation.
At the time, the university cited a dramatic drop in golfers and a loss of $120,000 that year.
Also at that time, the university said it was exploring using the land for high-tech businesses looking to partner with BGSU, but there were no definite plans.