New Course Planned Near Desert Canyon in North-Central Washington

In late June 2003, a couple of Wenatchee (Wash.) developers were in discussions with Douglas County officials to build an 18-hole golf course along the Columbia River. The site is 15 miles north of Orondo, and about 8 miles north of Desert Canyon Golf Resort. Desert Canyon’s co-owner and director of golf, Jack Frei, is slated to design the new layout.

Wenatchee real estate developer, Jack Corning, and his partner, Dave Mehelich, along with surveyor Roger Erlandsen, met with Douglas County commissioners to try to speed up the county's environmental review of the proposed “River Course.” The backers said they'd be willing to pay the salaries of additional county staff needed to get the course through the permit process so it could open in 2005.

Besides the course designed by Frei, who also designed Desert Canyon, Corning and Mehelich want to built 72 single-family dwellings along with a small clubhouse, driving range, and an RV area on the 360-acre parcel.

In comments to reporter James Pitkin in the June 26, 2003, Wenatchee World, Frei said the new course is needed to help satisfy the demand expected of the expanding Desert Canyon facility. Now under construction there is a $7-million, 100-guest lodge; future plans include condominiums and a resort village.

Desert Canyon recently aligned itself with Great Links Golf Resorts, a newly-formed golf “trail” in Washington state that involves Apple Tree in Yakima, Homestead in Lynden, Dungeness in Sequim, and Moses Pointe in Moses Lake. Each of these facilities is seeing time-share units being built alongside them over the next few years. Frei told Pitkin, “If you have 150 people staying on site a night, you’re going to need more holes of golf to accommodate them.”

One possible snag is the residential component along the Columbia River. It’s the county's responsibility to protect riverfront habitat and the threatened species that use it. “If you have a residential development, a lot of the species that use the shoreline will cease going there,” said Douglas County associate planner, Chuck Jones.

The River Course development will occupy land subdivided from a 2,000-acre parcel that was purchased in December 2001 by RLF Columbia Land Holdings of Colorado Springs. The 360 acres slated for the project were divided into 18 20-acre strips. County records show 13 of the smaller parcels have been sold, seven of them to Corning and Mehelich. Most sold for $100,000, while one brought $225,000.

The developers are now seeking to divide each tract into four smaller tracts for the housing units, a request that must be approved by the county. In addition, the county must approve an application submitted by the developers to rezone the parcel for a golf course. Further studies and reviews of the project are planned this summer.