Welcome to www.saveaudubonpark.org
SaveAudubonPark.org is a grass-roots citizens group formed in 2001 in reaction to
the Audubon Nature Institute's plans to rebuild and expand the historic Audubon
Park Golf Course.
Initially we protested the underhanded way in which the Audubon Commission/Audubon
Nature Institute implemented its development plan, and we sought to mitigate some
of the worst aspects of their proposal. We had some successes: the Hurst Walk public
path was ostensibly retained, although lack of subsequent ANI maintenance means
it is slowly disappearing; the site of the new golf clubhouse was changed to one
that would do less damage to the park; and the AC/ANI was forced to begin a Master
Plan design process that had been long requested, long overdue, and long ignored.
We remain concerned that the complacent composition of the public Audubon Commission,
coupled with the unceasing profit agenda of the private Audubon Nature Institute,
will mean that the Park's future will remain one of ad hoc and commercially-driven
development not based on any consideration of the general public interest. Until
a reconstituted Audubon Commission takes public input and accountability seriously,
the ANI will continue to operate outside the purview of our city's zoning ordinances,
land use plans, and alcoholic beverage laws.
SaveAudubonPark remains committed to the task of monitoring, reporting and, where
possible, contributing to the ongoing planning and development processes in Audubon
Park. History and current indicators suggest that this will be a continual trend
towards privatization, commercialization and exploitation of this precious park
land by forces whose sympathy for the public interest and the preservation of green
space in this city is limited.
Putting the 'profit' in non-profit?
As CEO of the ANI, Ron Forman continues to be paid far more than any comparable
colleagues by an increasingly wide margin.
Fact or Fiction?
Separating fact from fiction on Audubon's oft-repeated claim that they operate without
substantial public funding.
New golf facility continues to lose money
Despite the ANI's claim that the new golf course was necessary to provide operational
funds for maintenance of Audubon Park, their much-heralded new facility
finished its first full year of operation (2003) firmly in the red, with a loss of $212,696, plus depreciation of $123,604 for a total Operating Loss of $336,300. Their 'not-a-restaurant'
clubhouse food service, however, accounted for 24% of total revenue in 2003, far more than
the 3% they had projected.
But even though the ANI quickly began renting the clubhouse as a private party rental facility, something they had vowed would never happen (see below), the golf facility has continued to lose money. The Audubon Golf Course closed 2007 with an Operating Loss of $415,819.
The Clubhouse Cornerstone
From the outset, ANI officials doggedly insisted that the function of the new clubhouse was to
provide facilities "for the comfort of users of the golf course". In a deposition from January
2003, Dale Stastny swore under oath that NO non-golf related functions would be allowed in the
building, weddings and wedding receptions specifically would not be permitted in the clubhouse,
and that if someone asked to hold such an event in the clubhouse, they would be told "no".
However, we always suspected that the ANI planned to operate the golf clubhouse as another party
rental facility from its inception. While they denied the charge every step of
the way in public, we believe that they planned the building for this use all along.
From the beginning, the food service in the clubhouse made up a far greater
proportion of the facility's revenue than they claimed it would (24% vs 3%),
as we pointed out long ago for 2003, which was the first full year of
operation. (see The Clubhouse Reality III).
before Katrina, we analyzed the activity at the clubhouse once again.
During the period from April 2004 to April 2005, there were 79
private functions held at the clubhouse, broken down as follows:
Weddings: 18 events, revenue $129,203.58
Thus a total of private rental revenue of $270,371, of which 48% was from weddings,
and 89% was from functions having absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with golf.
And these were early years: since that time, the ANI openly advertises the
golf clubhouse as a rental facility for private parties, weddings, etc, just as it does the Tea Room.
We have not gone back and reviewed any of their financial records
since the storm, but anyone spending any time in the park can tell that the
number of private functions held at the clubhouse has increased steadily over
the past several years. In fact, members of the neighboring Upper Audubon
Association have made complaints about the noise from nighttime activities
at the new clubhouse, and made inquiries as to what the permitted uses for
operation were supposed to be. Unfortunately, since the ANI insisted unequivocally
(all the way through the municipal and state court system, in fact) that the
building was to be used only as a golf clubhouse, and absolutely not as a
restaurant or party rental facility, it naturally received none of the restrictions
or operating conditions that would have been applied to a restaurant or banquet rental
facility operating in that location.
Once we found out how significant were the profits from their various food
service facilities such as the Tea Room, we started to suspect that the
entire golf course renovation, having clearly nothing to do with Audubon's
primary wildlife business, had never been anything but a pretext to get another
party rental facility built in Audubon Park. Such a facility is not allowed
under present zoning without the "it's a clubhouse" cover.
The Audubon 2000 master plan from the early '90's proposed considerable
increases in revenue to be generated from food concessions and gift shops.
Constrained by zoning regulations, all such activities, the Audubon Tea
Room and Audubon Marketplace among them, had to be squeezed within the
zoo boundaries. While the rediscovery of their long-neglected golf course
was never part of Audubon 2000, if there had been any doubt that the
cornerstone of the redevelopment was the construction of a new 8000
sf restaurant/clubhouse in the park itself, the complete shelving of
the project for a year because they lacked the money for this new
building made that perfectly clear. The ANI has also been strongly, and
successfully, advocating changing the zoning for parks to allow for any
commercial developments they may choose to adopt in the future.
Private parties: 14 events, revenue $44,924.75
Corporate parties: 22 events, revenue $66,303.55
Golf tournament meals: 16 events, revenue $21,109.17
Misc events: 9 events, revenue $8829.99
A Brief History
For more information about our initial mission, read Who Are We? The following link provides
more information about the nature and composition of
the Audubon Commission and the Audubon Nature Institute.
Many of our primary concerns about the golf
course redevelopment centered around specific issues including the plight of Hurst Walk that was initially slated for removal.
Additionally, we were concerned about the lack of adequate public planning and consultation
in the development of this particular initiative.
Now that the golf course redevelopment is complete, and wins or losses, the issues
are decided, we are focused on continuing to advocate for a
Master Plan for Audubon Park - one that takes the general public interest
in the protection of green space into account, and is not primarily devoted to the
financial interests of the Audubon Nature Institute.
Plan for Audubon Park
We believe that if a Master Plan for Audubon Park had existed before the golf course
redevelopment was started, not only would there have been much less controversy,
but the redevelopment would have been more sensitive to the interests of the wider
The Audubon Commission and Audubon Nature Institute are now in the process of developing
such a plan. However, we are concerned that the plan will not ultimately protect
Audubon Park from further unwarranted development brought on by the financial imperatives
of its guardians, and at the expense of the passive green space, public accessibility
and tranquility of this valuable urban oasis.
If you'd like to receive our email newsletter and updates, write us at SaveAudubonPark@Yahoo.com
We welcome comments, complaints and suggestions about this site.