Heath Drive isn't closed for good

Chris Thelen/Staff
One end of Heath Drive is being shifted down Berckmans Road and will be reconstructed across from Gate 6 of Augusta National Golf Club.

At first glance, the ongoing roadwork might seem to justify fears that arose during the height of Augusta National Golf Club's land grab.

Homeowners west of the club, pondering whether to sell to the National or to various speculators, whispered rumors that when the club owns all the property fronting it along Berckmans Road that part of the road would be shut down and rerouted and that any holdouts in the path of the new Berckmans Road would lose their property to eminent domain.

"If the county can do it, and the Augusta National wants to, it's going to happen," said William Garner, who still lives on Heath Drive.

Now roads are disappearing, like so many houses bought by the National. Construction crews working for the club have turned the northern section of Heath Drive into dirt. McCarthy Drive is closed. So is Hillside Lane, even though a private residence is still there.

But the National says none of these streets is being erased.

Spokesman Glenn Greenspan said in an e-mail that all three will be reconstructed after the club finishes work on its 70-acre grassy parking lot this summer. According to plans on file with the city's Planning & Zoning Department, Heath Drive is being shifted southward to line up with Gate 6, allowing easy access for vehicles and pedestrians between the parking lot and the golf course.

The club also asked the city to abandon its McCarthy Drive right of way. The request has been approved by the fire, engineering and traffic engineering departments and is awaiting approval by utilities, according to city documents.

As for Hillside Lane, resident William Hatcher and Zoning and Development Administrator Bob Austin said a contractor for Augusta National mistakenly tore up part of the street, so the club must replace it.

Mr. Hatcher complained that a shorter road would have cars turning around in his driveway and yard.

Mr. Greenspan, however, said the club planned all along to reconstruct Hillside Lane, and that had nothing to do with a complaint.

Asked about Berckmans, the spokesman e-mailed a statement saying, "Any change to Berckmans Road would be a decision made by the City of Augusta."

Rerouting Berckmans would make sense, Planning Commission Executive Director George Patty said, but if it ever happens, "it may be after I'm gone and after you're gone."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.