Kearns and Sons RS Aesthetics

Disc golf course proposed for Hamilton’s Hieronymus Park

By Michael Howell

The proposal to create a disc golf course in Hieronymus Park in Hamilton was postponed last week after the Hamilton City Council heard from some irate citizens who said they were surprised by the proposal and in adamant opposition.

Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf introduced the agenda item by noting that money had already been allocated in last year’s budget for the parks for creation of a disc golf course and a pickleball court. He said that the pickleball idea was cut due to lack of public interest, but that a meeting was held on March 10 at Hieronymus Park and a nine-hole disc golf course was laid out in a meadow by the river just south of the park’s north entrance. He said the matter was discussed in the last Committee of the Whole meeting and was moved to Council.

Councilmember Travis Martinez said, “I think it’s a really important thing to provide everybody with a chance to recreate in public parks in the city of Hamilton. We have a lot of natural parks and will be gaining about 75 acres of natural park with acquisition of the southside River Park.” He said that there was a lack of things for young people to do in Hamilton, that there was a gap for kids who have outgrown Legion Park and Driscoll Park.

Disagreement was noted immediately when a petition against placing the disc golf course in the park signed by 35 people was entered into the record. The collector of the signatures said it only took him an hour and a half.

Councilmember Joe Petrusaitis had also taken an informal survey at the park. He said not one person supported the disc golf course idea. He also stated that there were plenty of things for older kids to do in Hamilton including little league and soccer. He also noted that the course was being set up in a wetland.

Councilmember Kristi Bielski said that she didn’t think people understood what disc golf really was.

Councilmember Claire Kemp said she had a few concerns. She said that the Fair Board had approved a disc golf course at the Fairgrounds but without any funding. She said that maybe the City could fund the thing and have it built at the Fairgrounds. She also had concerns about bathroom facilities for events at the park.

“Do you know the environmental impacts?” she said. “I can’t say.”

Nancy Valk, a former City Council member, claimed that she is an avid user of the park and was caught unawares about the proposal. She said nothing was posted at the park.

“I perceive sort of a rushed process here on this Council,” said Valk. She went over the public record concerning the issue. She noted it first appeared in the records of a February Committee of the Whole meeting as a non-agenda item. Then, on March 10 a meeting was held at the park to lay out the design of the course and then the Committee of the Whole decided to send it to Council. She said they had some disc golf club from Missoula driving this thing whose members showed up at the park meeting to lay out the course.

“But did you ask anybody else?” said Valk. “This is big. It’s habitat for moose, bear, deer and fox, all kinds of critters and birds, herons and eagles. People walk here for peace, OK?” She asked if they talked about the impacts or if they considered the Hieronymus Park Master Plan?

“This is the gem of the whole community and you didn’t even read the plan,” said Valk. She said that when acquiring the property, a wetlands assessment was performed and a majority of the park was determined to be in wetlands. She said the City decided that making it a park was the best answer to that issue to take advantage of the natural character of the landscape. She said it was essentially set aside as a natural place, a wetland, and a place suitable for non-invasive recreation.

“You are going to ruin this park and it’s not OK,” she said. “I’m just asking that you stop this process and go back to the drawing board if you want to create a folf course. You’ve got to think about where you are putting it.”

Mayor Farrenkopf said, “Our intention was never to be sneaky or underhanded. I do honestly feel that this council and mayor tried to give as much public notice as we could. Yes, we could have put signs at the park, but we did notice it in other ways.”

“Maybe you are not trying to be sneaky,” said Valk, “but maybe you have to understand that this kind of issue with a public park is not the kind of issue where you can just put up a piece of paper in the front window.”

Bruce Mosbrucker said that he heard about the meeting from someone and went down to the park. He said there were no signs about it, but about thirty people were there.

“I went over to [Councilor] Martinez and the way I felt it was already a done deal,” said Mosbrucker. He said another man walked up to him and said that he better get used to it because it is going to happen.

Mosbrucker said he’s walked the park daily for the past 10 years except when sick. He said the course they marked off will be under water for two months when high water comes.

“You guys picked out the worst course you could,” he said, “… and like this lady said, it was really pretty sneaky, whether you guys realize it or not or try to act like it.” He said he was treated rudely at the park meeting.

Councilmember Martinez clarified that it was not him who said it was a done deal.

“I’m going to take a risk here looking around,” said Mayor Farrenkopf. “Could I have a motion to postpone voting on this agenda item until we can discuss it further and gather more information?” The motion was moved and seconded.

Councilmember Jenny West said that she thought the council should consider another place “not so close to the river.” She suggested perhaps the new property that the City was acquiring, a 70-acre parkland along the river.

The Council voted unanimously to postpone voting on the agenda item and the Mayor said that it would probably end up back in the Committee of the Whole for more discussion and more information gathering.

“I don’t feel tonight is the night to vote on this,” he said. “I would like to have a place to play disc golf. I don’t think there is anything evil about wanting to play disc golf in a park. But, what I really don’t want to happen is to have some sort of feud that forms between disc golfers and non-disc golfers not being able to co-habitate a park.”

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