PIKE LAKE — It's a beautiful day for a round of golf. For a swim, too. But the gate to these old links is locked, and the beach is empty, save for the sliver of sand near the public boat launch off Midway Road.

More than two years after the Pike Lake Golf Course was set to change hands, the sale remains tied up in court and the course and the popular recreation area remain closed.

AAA, the national auto club, was set to sell the 68-acre property in June 2017, but it had to clear up a contract issue that is either a legal technicality or a binding promise to continue operating the golf course, according to documents filed in St. Louis County District Court.

While the recreation area was developed in 1917, AAA and its predecessors have owned the land since 1931, and in 1982 an agreement was signed that would see the Minnesota State Automobile Association "continue to own and operate, as a service to the members of the MSAA ... the Pike Lake golf course and related facilities," according to court documents.

Members of the Pike Lake Advisory Committee opposed the sale and argued in court filings the auto club can't get out of its contractual obligation.

But Judge Mark Munger ruled in December that state law lets agreements such as these lapse after 30 years and ordered them voided as requested by AAA and the buyers, clearing the way for a sale with a clean title.

"The 1983 merger agreement did not create an express trust that requires The Auto Club to continue to own and operate the Pike Lake Golf Course," Munger wrote in his order.

Then the appeal came. Without the support of several of the individuals originally opposing the sale, lawyers took the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals earlier this year.

On Aug. 1, a three-member panel of judges will consider whether the buyers or even the current owners are free to do what they wish with the land.

Pike Lake Golf Course is seen through a fence on Thursday. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com
Pike Lake Golf Course is seen through a fence on Thursday. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com

Plans

The buyers, Roger and Diane Anderson, want to keep the golf course and beach open to the public with some housing developed near the course, according to the Pike Lake Area Association, potentially requiring a reconfiguration of the golf course.

"They are also planning to demolish the existing storage and clubhouse buildings. A new multi-purpose event center which would include concessions plus would be built," according to a community newsletter from 2017. "This is a plan we hope would keep this unique community asset functioning and available to the entire community."

Roger Anderson, owner of Harbor City Masonry, did not return a call or email seeking comment this week, though the association was told this winter the plans were to continue as described once the sale is complete.

In the meantime, AAA continues to mow the property, but the gate is locked and the beach is empty.

"We’re supportive of someone using that; we don’t want to see it turn to nothing," said Larry Modean, president of the Pike Lake Area Association. "Everyone in this community and in the city seems to have memories there. It would be a shame to see it go away."