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Sewer Hazard: After Floods, What About First Tee?

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Residents of Battery Park have been hit hard in recent months, as heavy rains and a collapsed sewer pipe led to flooding and home evacuations. But there's been another, lesser-known impact: Young golf hopefuls also have been forced to relocate.

The Richmond operation of First Tee, a national youth golf program, may be shut down for more than a year while utility workers create a new, larger drainage system to replace the collapsed pipe. The new pipe will run from First Tee's facility on School Street, near Battery Park, to the Bacons Quarter Branch ravine.

For the next year to 18 months, construction workers will be repairing the drainage pipe via a massive hole in the parking lot, says Chris Beschler, the city's director of public utilities.

"It's going to be a massive, massive opening, and it'll take up a lot of the parking lot," Beschler says. "And certainly you're concerned about the citizens' safety in that area."

Children in Richmond's youth golf programs are using the First Tee course in Chesterfield temporarily. About 350 young people between the ages of 8 and 15 take part in golf activities and classes at First Tee Richmond, which opened in May 2003.

"It's unfortunate that this all happened with First Tee in the middle of it, but it happened," says J.R. Pope, the city's director of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities. "We're certainly looking forward to getting the facility back up and running. For now, it's pretty much a construction site."

Construction work and the facility's closure could make it difficult to keep up the golf course and related areas.

"We're going to do what we can to maintain the greens and the tees," Pope says. "That's the biggest issue — to keep them at a point where we don't lose them and have to start from scratch when we reopen." S

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