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Parks board weighs environmental impact of proposed disc golf course

Thursday, December 2, 2010 by Elizabeth Pagano

The proposed disc golf course on the property adjacent to the Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park provoked heated discussion Tuesday night, as the Parks and Recreation Board weighed environmental concerns about the new site. They also got an earful about the upcoming closure of the Pease Park course.


Disc golf enthusiasts took to the podium to express their displeasure at the closure of the Pease Park course on December 31. That action leaves Austin with four operating disc golf facilities.


While the Guerrero location is intended to fill the void left by Pease Park, several people at Tuesday’s meeting were dissatisfied.


“We all feel like we were lied to or betrayed or anything that you want to call it,” said disc golfer Glenn Schleicher. “We were told that there was going to be another course open before that was shut down.”


Sara Hensley, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, addressed these concerns. “While we’re not going to make everyone happy, and we’ve angered people in the fact that they believed we would have one up and ready to go … I’ll take full responsibility for that. I don’t want the staff to take that hickey at all,” she said.


Hensley made a distinction between having a running course at the time of the Pease shutdown and having a site identified. She said that the Guerrero course would be completed by “maybe spring of 2011.”


Hensley also defended the decision to close the course at Pease Park so quickly. “The design of the course at Pease is many years old and less than desirable, and it probably did not take into consideration the value of our trees, which have become quite diminished,” she said. She also noted that “there are just very few occasions where we have to do something that is probably in the best interest of a park.”


Marty Stump, the city’s park development coordinator, addressed the need for a more environmentally sensitive site. He said that the new course would be an opportunity for a “sustainable way to develop a disc golf course, so that we’re not repeating mistakes of the past.”


Not everyone on the board was convinced that the proposed development is taking all environmental factors into consideration. Preliminary plans include multiple creek crossings, for example. The existence of migration paths and what are potentially heritage trees also concerned some board members.


“This is as close to pristine that we are going to find, outside of the Balcones Canyonlands,” said Board Member Jane Rivera. “Before we do a complete redo as a major sports complex, I would really like to see us consider some portion of it as a natural preserve because that could be part of the jewel in Austin’s crown.”


“If there is a way to preserve the plants and animals some way, with putting disc golf somewhere, not necessarily on top of them, that is what I would like to see you consider,” she added.


The discussion closed with a reiteration of the need for cooperation as plans move forward on the new site.


“We are committed to working with the disc golf community. We want this to be successful, but we also are committed to protect our creatures and our trees and our other resources and try and do the best we can to do the right thing,” concluded Hensley.

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