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Haystack Golf Course in a quandary


September 25, 2019 | View PDF

Courtesy photo

Haystack Golf Course is facing financial challenges.

Haystack Golf Course's website reads, "Since the 1800s, this land has been cherished for its beauty, bounty, adversity, and challenge."

Fifty-three years since its inception those words continue to ring true. Julia Pirnack's mother and father, Lois and Bud Ebel purchased the 214-acre parcel of land on Niwot Road in 1963, including the volcano-shaped Haystack Mountain, after being smitten by its splendor. Originally a livestock and hay farm, the Ebels transformed it into a nine-hole golf course that opened in 1966.

Since then, land around the golf course has been developed into subdivisions and nearby neighbors can enjoy the beauty of living on such a lush picturesque open landscape. But that scenic setting may be in some serious trouble.

"We're doing the best we can to continue to run the businesses in the best way possible, but the reality is we're also looking at some other options that frankly don't have to do with continuing to operate the business," Pirnack said.

Pirnack, one of the six siblings from the second generation of owners, is now the legal trustee of the business and she's been tasked with making tough decisions in the face of many considerable problems.

First, Mother Nature threw a fit in the form of a devastating flood in 2013 and a third of the course was left underwater. Although many volunteers helped with the cleanup, unlike municipal golf courses, the cost of repairing the greens and the irrigation system are not paid for by government entities.

The business was closed for almost a year following the flood. The course isn't 100% restored yet and Pirnack said they're still trying to get back to the number of golfers who teed up before the flood hit.

Lois Ebel ran the golf operations into her 80's and was in charge of bringing the course back following the horrific damage caused by the flood. She passed away in 2016 leaving the business and land in a living trust for the benefit of her children.

"Unfortunately, mom had to take out some pretty hefty loans after the flood just to stay in business," Pirnack said and those loans are still being paid off.

With the death of the matriarch, estate tax payments have significantly added to the business's financial burden.

Debts in excess of $1M are due in a couple of years. It's a daunting amount and Pirnack said it isn't clear how to proceed. One thing she knows for certain is that her mother really wanted Haystack Golf Course to stay in operation.

Niwot Road west of Highway 119 is a highly traveled bike and running route and Pirnack said the number of weekend races going by their front gate has made it difficult for golfers to get to the course and has delayed employees from arriving on time.

To complicate the situation further, none of the business's events are new and hours have remained the same, but there has been some recent pushback from neighbors and even protestors at the gate. Complaining calls and emails from neighbors to the business and the sheriff's office have risen this summer, as well as negative social media postings. Pirnack said the complaints are not substantiated.

Like every other golf course, in addition to actual golf activities, special events help to support the business. During the warm weather season, the public is invited (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.) to enjoy the gorgeous backdrop for Wednesday grill nights ($10 dinners and live music) and on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays the beer garden comes alive with local musicians.The facilities are also used for weddings, business parties, and retreats.

Pirnack said she monitors noise levels and it's been kept within the required decibel level along property lines. Musical events end by 10 p.m. if not earlier. One neighbor requested that morning mowing be started later to allow them to sleep in on Saturdays and Haystack staff arranged for that..

"I think a lot of this is about marketing because my mom never did much marketing and we've tried to rebrand this business. We put up a website and announced that we have this beer garden. We're more obviously trying to get business because that's what businesses do," Pirnack said.

Pirnack said if revenue from the business can't support operations, "We're going to go out of business."

The land could be sold to a home developer. It's designated as a NUPUD (Non-Urban Planned Unit Development), which allows for one house per 35 acres or possibly more if it's negotiated with Boulder County. Other options are that the land could also revert to agricultural uses or the family could exercise the land's mineral rights allowing for the extraction of oil and gas. Potential buyers have approached the business and the county has also expressed interest in it being open space.

"Honestly, between the harassment from the neighbors and the harassment from the county because of the neighbors, I just don't know if it's viable," Pirnack said. "We have tried to be really good neighbors, but I just don't know if it's worth it."

"It's hard because on the one hand we feel like no one wants us there and people are trying to put us out of business. And on the other hand, we have all these people saying 'Oh my gosh, it's been here forever, it's a community benefit. Don't you dare sell to someone,'" Pirnack said. "So for me, you can imagine what a terrible burden it is to try to make that decision."

For more information on Haystack Mountain Golf Course visit – http://www.GolfHaystack.com .


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