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Forestry board worried about plans for disc golf at Guerrero Park

Monday, January 24, 2011 by Michael Kanin

Public frustration over the installation of a disc golf course at Roy G. Guerrero Park may be giving the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department some pause. “Given the concerns voiced about this site, it’s causing us to really evaluate this proposal,” said the department’s Parks Development Coordinator, Marty Stump.


The Parks Department planned to use part of Guerrero Park as a disc golf site to replace a popular course recently shut down at Pease Park. However, there is concern that disc golf use at Guerrero could have a negative effect on the environment.


“We are really talking at the staff level now – this week, last week, next week – (about) this is a decision making point for us because we need to decide whether to invest the money in the additional field analysis … on this site, or to stand down and take another look at the alternative sites,” Stump said.


That news came as members of the city’s Urban Forestry Board took a few swings at potential course during a briefing Wednesday night. Though no vote was recorded, it is clear that the project could face challenges when it returns for official action.


Indeed, four members of the seven person group expressed some level of concern about the Guerrero Park disc golf plan. “I’ve been out to this site, and there are areas just like (those at Pease Park) that go down … into a creek bottom,” said board member Nicholas Classen.


During his presentation, Stump also noted that the potential May opening of the Guerrero course – should its design make it through the various processes necessary for its approval – is now fairly optimistic.


He added that his department is committed to comprehensively vetting the idea. “We’re trying to make a successful project out of this and we feel like we can,” he said. “If it’s demonstrated through the stakeholder process that we cannot carry out that objective on that site, then we’ll find another site.”


Still, concerns lingered for board members. Classen wondered if having Parks and Recreation handle the environmental examination of the project wasn’t a bit unfair. “You’re going to devise your own criteria and mold this to fit it?” he asked. “Isn’t this kind of like the fox guarding the hen-house?”


Stump called that a mischaracterization. “The department is committed to going above and beyond what is mandatory for us in standard site development practices,” he said.


Toward the end of the exchange, Jessica Wilson asked for the course design to be brought back before the board. She said that she would like it to be listed on the agenda “so that we can take action on it.”


The Austin City Council has signaled its interest in seeing the course sent through the appropriate city processes. (See In Fact Daily, Jan. 14, 2011)


During his presentation Stump also noted that, should the Guerrero disc golf site be developed, it would now likely not be open before this fall. Initial estimates had put the date sometime in May. “It’s a moving target right now,” he said.

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