AUSTIN (KXAN) — From birthdays to engagements to many, many first dates, there are decades of memories at Peter Pan Mini-Golf.
Take it from Spencer Schumecher and Erin Swearingen who went on their first date at the course as freshman at the University of Texas Austin more than three years ago. The two agreed not to keep score, highlighting their mutual inability to keep competition from ruining a date.
And it worked, the date went well, though there’s some argument about who won — since no scorecard was kept. Years later, Schumecher describes that outing as “maybe the happiest memory of all.”
Another Austinite, Natalie Becker, was rewarded as a child with a trip to Peter Pan when her and her brother avoided enough sugar to keep her parents happy.
Meanwhile, Kelsey Huse recalls a time when the Texas Department of Transportation accidentally sent her, and several other advocates, an email without blind copy, of which they turned into a activist gathering at the golf course. It’s where they plotted to save an Austin trail.
“It adds a quirkiness and that weird Austin vibe with all of the sculptures that they have and the statues. It just has something very unique and authentic,” Huse said.
These are just some of the many Austinites who have visited the golf course over the span of generations. The Austin staple has been near Lamar and Barton Springs Road since 1948 — owned and operated by one family.
Since its conception decades ago, it’s kept the quirkiness that encapsulates Austin’s slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” something the owner says they don’t plan to change any time soon, despite a lingering uncertainty about the future of the land underneath the business.
“They managed to squeeze 36 holes on this tiny plot of land. It took some creativity,” said Margaret Dismukes-Massad, the owner. “We don’t have any plans to change one thing. We’re going to keep on going.”
Why is Peter Pan’s future in jeopardy?
When John C. Wende died in 1953, he left behind a trust, which he wanted to benefit orphans in Texas, a spokesperson for the Texas Juvenile Justice (TTJD) Department told KXAN.
The property underneath the mini-golf course, and the now knocked down McDonald’s at South Lamar and Barton Springs Road, are presently owned by that trust.
For the past seven decades, the trust was managed by the TTJD board and before that, the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) board, according to the TTJD.
But that’s where this gets tricky. Because of a mandate by the Sunset Advisory Commission, the trust now has to be transferred to a third-party trustee, the TTJD told KXAN. That trustee has not been named yet. That process is being handled by the Texas Attorney General’s Office, TTJD said.
“The new trustee will oversee these two properties and the leases on them, which expire in 2024. It will be up to the new trustee to determine the future best handling of these properties on behalf of the trusts’ designated beneficiaries, orphans of Texas,” a spokesperson for the TTJD said.
What about historical designation?
Natalie Becker avoided sugar enough, and therefore ended up at Peter Pan enough, that she felt compelled to create a petition. It asks Austin City Council to consider stepping in to save the business by designating it as historical. But according to a City of Austin spokesperson, the property owner would need to submit a historic zoning application, which would then be reviewed at the Historic Landmark Commission, Planning Commission and then City Council.
“We cannot save every business in Austin, and we must accept some level of change as the city grows, but the history and benefit of this particular site are too great to lose,” Becker wrote in her petition.
Still, Becker and her partner are working to spread the world about saving the place they both grew up visiting. You’re likely to find their flyers at businesses near Peter Pan.