Oswit Land Trust has received its first grant for the organization’s plans to convert Mesquite Golf Club into a nature reserve, just weeks after a lawsuit against Oswit alleged the land trust purchased the land golf course without planning how it will finance the conversion. project.
On Monday, the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy approved a $163,850 grant for Oswit Land Trust golf course conversion plans.
“We are grateful to CVMC for their trust and support in this important work. We are proud to have partnered with CVMC on every acquisition we have made to date and thrilled to have them alongside us in the creation of Prescott Preserve. “said Oswit. Land Trust executive director Jane Garrison in a statement Tuesday.
The money will be used for the planning phase of the project, and Oswit Land Trust will use the grant to hire a restoration company and a landscape architecture firm to work on the design of the project.
“This grant kicks off the next four months of planning which will include a comprehensive biological resource assessment of the property for every plant, tree, pond, bird and wildlife on the property. This data will be used to determine exactly what the property may become and how the design will incorporate public use and wildlife. Soil samples, tree assessments, design diagrams, community outreach, etc. will be included in the planning phase,” according to a press release from Oswit Land Trust.
Oswit Land Trust announced its purchase of Mesquite Golf Club in July, saying it would rename the course Prescott Preserve in honor of longtime Palm Springs resident Brad Prescott, whose foundation purchased the land and made it into donation to the trust.
Plans for the Prescott Preserve include restoring the golf course to natural desert habitat, with public walking and biking trails. Garrison called the project a “central reservation”—similar to Manhattan’s Central Park—for Palm Springs.
HOA pursues golf course conversion
The Mesquite Country Club Owners Association has challenged this plan and is taking legal action to stop Oswit from turning the golf course into a nature preserve.
In a lawsuit filed in Riverside County Superior Court on August 12, the Mesquite Country Club Condominium Homeowners Association argues that converting the golf course to a nature preserve violates legally binding “covenants, conditions and restrictions,” or CC&R, that govern the community. . These CC&Rs provide for “the construction, maintenance and continued operation of an 18-hole golf course,” the complaint states.
The HOA also disputed the possible costs of the project, and how much the association will have to contribute to those costs.
“It is important to note that Oswit has not described this proposed project in detail and has not explained how much it will cost, how long it will take, or how Oswit proposes to finance the project until its completion,” says the complaint, which adds that Oswit is asking the HOA “to fund unknown amounts toward the conversion project.”
The HOA stopped paying rent of about $20,000 a month, which Garrison says Oswit counted on for maintenance costs related to the property.
“Oswit demanded that we continue to pay rent of $20,000 per month under the lease, while the HOA receives no benefit in return, and while Oswit dramatically changes the use of the subject land. of the lease. However, it is not our obligation to maintain ownership of Oswit,” HOA board members wrote in an opinion piece published in The Desert Sun last month.
The HOA alleges that Oswit did not provide specific details regarding development plans, the cost of developing the reserve, how Oswit plans to fund those costs, or the timeline for the project.
“Why anyone would buy a 125-acre golf course without the financial ability to maintain or operate it is a mystery, and highlights the risk to our community of Oswit having ‘put the cart before the horse'” , states the opinion piece.
In response, Garrison wrote “to insinuate that we would buy 120 acres without a plan is ridiculous”, pointing to the land trust’s work on past acquisitions in the Palm Springs area.
At the end of the four-month planning phase, a “detailed map, 3D modeling and design” will be made public, and the final design and construction documents will then be used to apply for restoration grants in early 2023, according to Oswit Land Trust.
Oswit has launched a public inquiry on its website regarding the project, and will also be hosting Zoom presentations over the coming months on the project. The first Zoom presentation is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Erin Rode covers the environment for the Desert Sun. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @RodeErin.