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Planning Commission OKs Pease Park Plan

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Though protests over the exclusion of a disc golf course in the Pease Park Master Plan continued to ring out at the Planning Commission last week, the plan is moving on to City Council with unanimous support from commissioners.

Commissioners voted 6-0 in support of the master plan, with Commissioner James Nortey absent. But it was not without some sympathy for those who asked for the disc golf course to be included.

“I scored my first, and possibly only, hole-in-one on that golf course,” said Commissioner Brian Roark. “But I think that does have an effect on the park that is not commensurate with the rest of the park uses … Personally, I don’t think it’s compatible with long-term goals to conserve.”

Parks and Recreation Department Preservation Planner and Cultural Resource Specialist Kim McKnight said that Parks and Recreation Director Sarah Hensley had to find the balance between ecology and recreation, and that balance did not include a disc golf course.

“In this case, she made the very difficult decision to remove disc golf from Pease Park,” said McKnight. “It was a long process, and in 2010 the course was permanently closed.”

Members of the disc golf community tell a different story. They say they believed the course closure would only be temporary, and they continue to fight to see it reopened.

Waterloo Disc Golf Club President Gordon Maxim-Kelley said that the plan was excellent and he would love to support it, but could not do so without the inclusion of a course.

“We’re coming across as the ones who want to spoil it, and we’re really not. We just want this one activity added back,” said Kelley. “When it came time to master plan, there was no comment to the disc golf community at all. They did not only not notify when they put out their survey, they very nicely left out disc golf as even an option to consider.”

There are currently five free 18-hole disc golf courses in the city.

A partnership between the city and the Pease Park Conservancy has raised more than $200,000 for the master plan. The conservancy has planted 6,000 trees, raised more than $600,000 and secured a permanent endowment for the park. The city and the group realized a master plan would be necessary to protect the ecosystem while making improvements to the park.

Though there is no current city funding for the park, McKnight has said in the past that several city departments will contribute to the improvements once the plan is approved.

Pease Park Conservancy Chair Richard Craig explained that increasing density around the park has put pressure on it, and it was time for this generation to step up and show “great vision” for the park.

“I really just wanted to plant some trees initially, but the thing got totally out of control,” said Craig.

Craig said the conservancy has donors and volunteers willing to help improve the park, but they needed an approved master plan to move forward.

Commissioner Stephen Oliver said the private-public partnership was exactly what the city’s parks needed.

“I think this speaks to the critical role of stewards in our community, leading by example and grabbing the bull by the horns and doing something,” said Oliver. “We need more of this … We need to find the private dollars where people are willing to put that into the system.”

He continued: “If we want these big-city, cool parks that are loved, and natural, and not trampled to death … we’ve got to put some serious private sector money (in). Because the public sector money won’t do it itself.”

The master plan is currently scheduled to go before Council on Oct. 16.

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