Port talks with new unnamed investor while Korean group takes things more slowlyWARRENTON - Construction may start on a long-planned public golf course in Warrenton as soon as this fall, after an Oregon investor has accelerated the pace of the project to take advantage of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial.

The Port of Astoria wants to turn a vacant, 300-acre site bordered by the Skipanon Slough and Youngs Bay in Warrenton into an 18-hole public golf course.

"We would hope that if everything could fall into place ... we may be starting sometime this fall," said Ron Larsen, a port official who has worked closely on the issue.

The project has been in the planning stages for years and was motivated by the desire to generate revenue for the port. In 2000, the port completed a financial feasibility study, with what the port describes as favorable results. The port hopes to lease the site, which it owns jointly with the Department of State Lands, to a developer who would build and manage the course.

The port had long been courting a group of unnamed Korean investors to fund the development. The Koreans have visited the site, and Port Director Peter Gearin visited South Korea last fall to help sell the project. But a Northwest Oregon investor, whom the port will not name, has also been involved in the discussions. And he has become frustrated with the slow pace of progress and may be taking over the project, according to Larsen.

"(The Koreans') ability to get themselves organized is running a little bit slower than he would like. ... He may just build the golf course on his own," said Larsen, speaking of the Oregon investor. "... Right now he is just more concerned with getting the golf course up and running because of the influx of tourists due to the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial."

The Korean group could still invest, but the Oregon investor won't be waiting for them to start, Larsen said.

The port estimates the project would cost $4 million to 6 million, although officials stress they have no firm building plans or commitments yet. The port hasn't negotiated a lease with any of the parties, and Larsen said he didn't know how much revenue a golf course would generate for the port.

The port owns most of the site, a 205-acre portion, but a lease would have to be arranged with DSL for the state's share of the property, Larsen said.

The project has support among elected port commissioners, according to Commissioner Jim Bergeron.

"I think most people are behind it," he said. "Our goal is to get all of the port land supporting some kind of income."

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