Nelson council has allowed the use of the wooded area of Art Gibbon Park in Rosemont as a disc golf course for a one-year trial period.
Council reached this compromise in the face of enthusiastic persistence from the Nelson Disc Golf Society and determined opposition from some Rosemont residents.
The decision was made at council’s Nov. 4 meeting at which Craig Stanley of the city’s parks department told council that he canvassed this subject thoroughly with both groups. He said the golf society’s plan has undergone many adjustments as a result.
“Our preferred location would be a stand-alone space in the forest somewhere,” Stanley said, “but we do not have that much land.”
Stanley said Art Gibbon Park was originally set up specifically for recreation.
Disc golf (also known as frisbee golf) resembles golf because its object is to complete each hole in the fewest number of strokes, or, in the case of disc golf, the fewest number of throws. Instead of a hole there is an elevated metal basket, and instead of golf balls, plastic discs. Players must navigate obstacles such as trees, shrubs and terrain changes. Creating a disc golf course does not require the removal of trees.
The written materials discussed by council, including the golf society’s proposal, are attached to the online version of this story at nelsonstar.com
Residents’ concerns have included increased traffic, safety issues, parking shortages, and increased noise. The proponents cite a survey in which 74 per cent of 278 people surveyed support the plan.
Council members seemed torn.
“This is a really tough one,” said councillor Cal Renwick. “And please know that I have lost some sleep over this one. I am a recreation guy and I like the fact that this seems like a good proposal and a good sport. I went up to the park and looked around and talked to a few people.”
Renwick wondered if it might be possible to concentrate the disc golf activity on certain parts of the park such as the east side where there is already a bike park, skate park, and proposed playground.
Stanley responded that if council decides the project should be confined to a specific area of the park, that could happen.
Councillor Rik Logtenberg said, “I have thought a lot about this and gone up there six times, brought my daughter and nieces up to get a feel for it. The key point is it was identified as a recreation park. Question: for a trial period could we put a flag or something to indication to walkers that there are players on the course?”
Stanley responded that players can start anywhere in the course so this would be difficult, and wondered if players when finished would remember to take the flag down.
Logtenberg also speculated that no one would be playing disc golf in the park “90 per cent of the time.”
Councillor Jesse Woodward also said he has spent time in the park and talked to neighbouring residents.
“It is definitely contentious,” he said. “This is a low-barrier sport — you don’t have to have a lot of money, just buy a disc and you are going. A lot of children are not getting out in nature, they are very attached to screens, so this is a low-barrier outdoor sport.”
“I feel any way we can get kids in the woods being active the better for society as a whole,” Woodward continued. “But I echo Cal Renwick if it goes ahead that there is a real effort to find a way to have the course toward the skate park and toward Richards Street. There must be a middle road here, so there are not winners and losers.”
Councillor Keith Page agreed with Woodward and said the project would be healthy recreation for young people.
“The power of this to me is that one-year trial, to work with the proponent and work with the community to put something in place and we can collect information afterwards.”
City manager Kevin Cormack pointed out that council could restrict the hours of the disc golf course.
Councillor Brittny Anderson said she supports the proposal but voted against it because of the local public opposition.
“I love this proposal. When I first heard of it I thought, oh, slam dunk for the community, this is going to be an easy one. Then after seeing so many emails and 180 signatures on a petition, I looked at those addresses. They were right around that park.
“I think that if this goes ahead, the community will like this park. But if I am supposed to represent the community, the residents around this park are telling us not to do it, so I am going to vote against this even though in my heart I want to see it move forward.”
Logtenberg responded, “I was yes, then no, then Keith [Page] convinced me and part of it is that it is a trial program. I have looked at many [initiatives that were hated when put in and popular after] including bike lanes in Vancouver. This is exactly one of those things.
“I hope the community comes on side with this, but if it does not, I would be open to pulling my support for this.”
Iraleigh Anderson of the golf society responded to council’s decision in an email to the Star: “The Nelson Disc Golf Society is thrilled that we finally have the chance to bring disc golf to Nelson. We have been working for many years to make this happen, and it is so exciting to be able to bring this low-barrier family activity to Nelson. Councillors brought forward good feedback during the meeting, and we will work with city staff to design a course that fits well within the park and its existing uses.”
On Nov. 19 we corrected two errors in this story. The discs are made of plastic, not metal as we originally reported. Also, 74 per cent of 278 people surveyed support the disc golf project, not 74 per cent of Nelson residents as we first stated.