STOCKTON — A soccer field, a university, a skating rink and maintaining the current golf course were some of the many suggestions residents had for the future of Van Buskirk Golf Course.

The city of Stockton hosted a community meeting at the Van Buskirk Community Center on Saturday to gather ideas from residents about potential uses for the southwest Stockton public golf course.

Discussions about the facility’s future have been reignited over the past two years after Mayor Michael Tubbs suggested Van Buskirk and Swenson Park golf courses for other purposes due to the decline in golf’s popularity.

Community members accused the city of making decisions about the golf courses without public input last year.

As a result, city officials and leaders are hoping community engagement will help find the best use for Van Buskirk, a 50-year-old, 200-acre course at 734 Houston Ave.

Jesse Castellon Sr. said he has been playing golf there since the 1960s.

Once one of the most popular venues for the sport in the Central Valley and home to at least two tournaments a year, he said the course has been abandoned by the city in favor of Swenson Park.

“This was a crown jewel of Stockton, and all the resources have been going to Swenson Park,” Castellon said. “Nothing is coming to Van Buskirk to keep it in shape. A lot of people are saying let’s go with a soccer field, but you’re going to have the same issues with a soccer field that you have with a golf course. You still have to water the grass, you have to maintain it. Why not just keep it as a golf course?”

Resident Gene Fuss said if the city were to maintain the facility as a golf course, then a possibility would be to incorporate features for the city’s youth.

He noted the families that reside in Conway Homes across the street from the course have many children who would love to have someplace outside to go and keep active.

One idea he suggested was to keep the current 18-hole course but create an additional 9-hole course for children.

“You could also form a parks district,” he said. “Then you could vote in your board and vote on the activities you’d like to see with people from this community. Now that board and the people take control of what’s going to happen there, and you could do something like fundraising to pay for it.”

Other suggestions made by the nearly four dozen residents in attendance included a polo field, a water park, a public pool and a casino, among others.

But Pandora Crowder, president of the Conway Homes Resident Council, said while ideas like a university or soccer stadium sound great, Houston Avenue would not be able to handle the amount of traffic generated.

She said the city needs to ask youngsters in the neighborhood what they would like to see built, not just what adults want to see.

“Our kids use this facility, and our kids are going to benefit from whatever comes in here,” she said. “I have 436 units over here, and we work really hard to keep our kids busy. If they don’t keep busy, they’re getting into trouble.”

Van Buskirk and Swenson Park are managed by Kemper Sports. After public outrage over the city’s plan to reuse Swenson Park, the Friends of Swenson community group came up with ideas that would keep the golf course as is.

Last summer, the city advertised requests for proposals for the golf course in an effort to find a new management firm dedicated to maintaining the property.

The city received a handful of proposals and a final decision about the course’s management has yet to be made.

Van Buskirk was gifted to the city by the Van Buskirk family in 1957 with the requirement it remain a recreational asset. That stipulation still is in place.

Staff from the city’s community services department collected residents’ suggestions and concerns and will hold another meeting in the future to discuss more ideas.

“I’m glad the city chose to hold this meeting,” Stockton City Councilwoman Susan Lenz said. “I know the city has some issues with the golf courses, but we welcome all the public’s input about what their ideas are for Van Buskirk.”

According to staff, the city is planning to have an online survey about Van Buskirk Golf Course’s future, as well as updates on the facility, on its website, www.stocktonca.gov.

Contact reporter Wes Bowers at (209) 546-8258, or wbowers@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @WesBo26.

CORRECTION: JAN. 16, 2019: Pandora Crowder's title was incorrect in the print and initial online version of this article. The error has been corrected.