Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 11:01am

Future of Fitchburg Golf Course Assessed in Context of Community Health

Many things happen when a community faces decisions about plans for the future.  The Nine Springs Golf Course has been a resource in Fitchburg for many years.  Over those years, a large, mostly minority community has grown around the borders of this facility.  The neighborhood has few resources that provide large, open spaces like parks and playgrounds, and the large tract of land being used by the golf course is not open for use (without paying) by the community.  The community finds itself faced with planning challenges and decisions regarding the future use of the Nine Springs Golf Course property. Should it continue as a golf course, or should it become a park space for the entire community?

This kind of situation can be a source of controversy and conflict in a community, and planning decisions can be fraught with disagreements.   And it is precisely this type of situation in which a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) can be helpful to both urban planners and residents because it focuses on the public health impacts, both positive and negative, of the different plan options.   By framing these challenges in the context of the impact on the health of the community that such decisions can have, there can be a more transparent and collaborative decision making process that represents all the stakeholders in the community.
The HIA study, which was carried out by Public Health-Madison and Dane County includes a report on the health impacts of the alternative park and golf course plans as well as research regarding high priority focus areas that were identified by the Community Advisory Committee, including: physical activity, social cohesion (how connected the community is), safety, and environmental health. A broad array of residents and partners actively participated in all phases of the HIA. The study team also partnered with the Childhood Obesity Prevention Collaborative, as well as with City of Fitchburg staff, City of Madison staff, and other local stakeholders and residents.

This HIA study was presented to the Fitchburg Common Council on April 23rd, 2014. 
The study team shared a data analysis regarding factors that influence the health of the surrounding community, such as opportunities for physical activity, social cohesion, safety, and environmental health.  The study showed that by analyzing how each of the proposals being considered would either benefit the community’s health or put it at risk.  The presentation concluded with recommendations to the Fitchburg Common Council on how to mitigate those risks and further strengthen the community’s health.  There was a strong focus on engaging in the process those who will be most impacted by the decision.
The Fitchburg Common Council will make the final decision on May 13th regarding whether to implement the park plan or keep it a golf course.
A copy of this HIA study

For information on the Child Obesity Prevention Collaborative