After leaving two messages since Friday, at about 2:00 PM today, Monday, Kevin Bette of Saratoga National Golf Course finally returned my call. It is hard to reconstruct our discussion because Mr. Bette talks at an extraordinary rate and the conversation tends to be quite unfocused. Basically he told me that only he could show me the trail. He said that the other staff there was not properly informed to answer any questions I might have. He then told me that he was not available this week and would be away over the Labor day weekend. As it happens, I am going to be traveling for most of September starting on Sunday. I asked him if he could not allow someone at the course to just show me the trail. I told him I could not understand the necessity of him coming up here when all I really wanted was to know where the trail went. This led to him going on about how the trail dead ends and so it is really not used. He then launched into a reverie about how great it would be if I would work on developing a city wide trail system that would incorporate their trail. I think this gives you a rough idea about what it is like to try to have a discussion with Mr. Bette. I told him that while I would be in support of additional connecting trails, my understanding of a nature trail is that it has intrinsic value and does not require other trails. I then told him that I would be happy to have an agreement with him and whomever he chose to show me the trail not to ask any other questions. I would simply have the person show me where it was. He then went on at a rapid rate that made it impossible to get a word in about how it needed to be him who showed me the trail for a plethora of reasons that came down to the fact that he did not trust anyone else to deal with me. I asked could he please find a little time this week to show me the trail and he went on at great length about the fact that he runs five companies and does not have time.
He then asked me what it was I wanted from his group. I told him that I had actually been prepared to accept what I had understood his group to be offering. i.e. that they wanted to build their facilities 3000 feet from the road on twenty-five acres and put the rest in a permanent easement. This prompted a positive geyser of words about how it was the City Council that wanted to first adopt these changes in the zoning and that his group was prepared to do whatever it took but that they had to operate according to the City Council. I tried to explain to him that without some enforceable commitment for what his group had offered as an easement I could not support going forward. This again led to five minutes of variations on how their hands were tied. I then quoted Ronald Reagan’s famous aphorism: “Trust but verify.” I told him that I needed something that was clear and enforceable. After another long statement by him about how much he and his partners cared about the property and how they were bound by the process of first getting the zoning they needed, I finally interrupted him (it was not easy)and told him how much I appreciated him calling me and wished him an enjoyable Labor Day weekend after which I was able to graciously end our conversation and hang up.
The idea that no employee at Saratoga National Golf Course can be allowed to show me where this alleged trail is raises the obvious question of what is Mr. Bette afraid that an employee might inadvertently tell me? The fact that for two weeks neither PLAN nor Saratoga National can provide me with someone who can show me where this alleged trail is only adds to the suspicion that the “nature trail” is a fiction. My suspicion is that the trail is simply a document showing a line traversing the golf course using golf cart paths which meets the legal requirement of the Special Permit issued by the city but cannot honestly be called a nature trail. It raises serious questions about the value of the promises Saratoga National makes.