The proposal for a disc golf course at Simmons Road Park was unanimously rejected after a tour of the property that was intended to sell the idea but instead backfired as people visualized how destructive the sport would be to the 24 acres of natural habitat and to neighbors.
“Let’s have Simmons Road Park stay Simmons Road Park without any changes,” said Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee Chairman Tom Camera, before calling the vote. The committee voted 6-0 to not consider any alterations to the park other than those already planned going forward.
Just two hours before the PRAC meeting, Tom Goad, president of 8 Flags Disc Golf Association, directed an on-site impact assessment of the project at Simmons Road Park. About 100 people braved sweltering heat and humidity along with the six members of the committee for the tour.
Leading people in groups averaging about 6 to 8 people, Goad guided them to a conceptual first hole that ran adjacent to a creek, with underbrush on both sides and houses located on the other side.
About half of those at Simmons Road Park then cooled off inside the City Commission Room for the PRAC meeting. Eighteen people, all opposing the disc golf plan, addressed the committee citing negative impacts on the 24 acres of property from what they had seen.
Numerous speakers cited disc golf players trampling through the underbrush in search of errant disc throws. They pointed out the disruptive impact of having what Goad predicted would be “25 to 50” people a day near wetlands and natural habitats, along with noise generated by players. They pointed out the lack of parking at the location and concerns about who would be maintaining the disc golf course in the long term.
“This is a nonsensical idea,” said Cameron Moss. “There must be something in the water because we’ve seen a racetrack proposed at the golf course. We’ve seen a solar farm proposed by clear-cutting 36 acres of native forest. We’ve seen 11 85-foot towers proposed for the south end of the island. I’ll take a business approach and say what’s the demand (for this).”
The majority of speakers maintained that Simmons Road Park was intended to be a “passive park” where visitors could enjoy the quiet comforts of nature and listen to the chorus of birds each day. Committee member Phil Chapman said to read the Parks and Recreation website that states, “Preserving the community’s natural environment.” “I don’t think this (disc golf proposal) is keeping in line with that. I think this would be totally against it,” he said.
The absence of any supporters at the meeting for the project reinforced Chapman’s opposition to disc golf at the Simmons Road Park location. “If there is such a high demand for this disc golf course, not one person came and spoke in favor of it. Not one disc golfer came and said I’m in favor of this. This is a bad idea for this park,” Chapman said.
Committee member Sheila Cocchi opposed the plan out of concern for people’s safety in the natural environment, the lack of available parking, and preserving habitat for birds and wildlife.
“I’d also like to point out that we are all county residents, and there are no county funds in District 1 going to parks and recreation. Every dollar in the county for recreation is being spent west of District 1,” Cocchi said. “I would encourage the disc golf people to explore opportunities with the county.”
Cocchi said the city has been steadfast in stating that trees be protected. “This runs counter to that so I don’t know how we can say one thing and then do something totally counter to that,” she said.
The only changes to Simmons Road Park will be the installation of six educational signs informing visitors about the park’s trees, wildlife and habitat.