Sep 13, 2008

Comments and Questions, Leddy Park disc golf course

A message from Wayne E. Gross, Director of Parks and Recreation, posted on Front Porch Forum: “The Department of Parks and Recreation, in conjunction with the BTown Disc Golf Club, is constructing a disc golf course in Leddy Park. The Department received a proposal from the Club that was reviewed by staff and approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission. Disc golf is a low impact activity that is similar to golf but involves throwing of disc "Frisbees" into metal baskets. The course layout is entirely within the wooded area of Leddy Park and will have minimal visibility from the active and developed areas of the park and there will be a buffer between the course and adjoining properties. I know that there has been some concern expressed about possible tree cutting to accommodate this project. I have been contacted by both Ward 4 City Councilors Kurt Wright and Russ Ellis about this concern. Please know that there will not be any tree cutting done. Only underbrush and tree saplings are being cut and this is being done under the supervision of City Arborist Warren Spinner. Disc Golf is a fun and popular activity that we think is appropriate for this location. This activity will also bring increased use to the wooded portions of the park and will discourage some inappropriate uses such as homeless encampments, illegal dumping, and vandalism that have taken place in this area in the past. For more information about the BTown Disc Golf Club and details of the project, please visit the Club website at I hope this information is helpful to everyones understanding of this project.” Wayne Gross.

Greg Jenkins
, a member of the Ward 7 NPA Steering Committee, was outspoken on the project. He was asked to compile a list of residents concerns posted on Front Porch Forum and sent to him. Greg writes: “It was asked of me that I compile a list of questions/concerns, bothpositive, and negative in regards to disk golf at Leddy Park. I have cut and pasted all the emails I have received in regards to this issue. The bulk of what follows, are not my words, but the thoughts of our community.” Greg Jenkins

Each comment or question is tagged with a category that is the main point of the comment. The categories are:

· decision process
· taxpayer costs and maintenance
· competing uses in the park
· game of disc golf
· general, includes several categories

Decision Process:
I agree with your priority. The "process" for approving this plan was terrible. This may be the "poster child" for Open Government in Burlington.

Decision Process: But these questions are all about how to use the course. I am still opposed to the course at all, because of the process used to get it started. There was no information to the public, no input was sought. Clear cutting was started before anyone even knew about the project.

Decision Process: Why was there no notification to the residents of Burlington, the current users of the Park and the adjoining property owners before this plan was approved?

Decision Process: Homeowners need to pay for zoning permits, building permits and post public notice prior to making property modifications. Why isn’t Parks and Rec. required to provide similar notice when there are significant changes to public spaces? What is the Process?_ The plan has been approved, construction started and now suspended. Will construction resume following this meeting, or5 will Parks and Rec. suspend its approval of this plan to allow for more public comment and more assessment of the impacts of this significant change in the use of the Park?

Decision Process:
For me, it is not about the game, it's about* the process* the City followed, the lack of any public input, using a city commission to make a big change like that in our park. Leddy is a quiet sanctuary of trails and woods, for thousands of residents. Because we don't call it a game, and we don't compete with each other in that space, our use doesn't count for anything? I walk the Leddy trails almost every day, and I am incensed that city government takes it over for a sport that brings 1200 people a week to throw Frisbees around in the woods, or whatever they do. Leddy Park Rd is narrow and people park along it now, making it unsafe for bicyclists and people walking.
Now the city will turn the public discussion into pro and con disc golf, which is not the frame of the argument

Decision Process:
Environmental Impact. Has Parks and Rec. had an independent environmental assessment done of the impacts of disc golf at Leddy Park? If Yes, will this assessment be made public before there is further construction? If no independent environmental assessment has been done, has Parks and Rec. evaluated the impact of this course in terms of:

1. Existing park activities and uses?
2. Increased traffic? (There may be enough parking for the possible 1,000 players per week, but can the access road and intersection at North Ave. support this increased traffic without negative impacts?
3. Impact on vegetation within and at the boundaries of the course? (There is a stand of wintergreen plants at the base of the proposed 10th “hole”. Will this vegetation and others be protected or subjected to the foot traffic of the course players? What will happen to vegetation when players leave the course to find mis-thrown and lost discs?)
4. Impact on wildlife in the park? (At least one pileated woodpecker nesting tree has already been cut down to make way for the course.)
5. Impact on shoreline. How will the fragile lakefront banks and steep ravine areas be protected from erosion due to players leaving the course to retrieve mis-thrown and lost discs?
6. Safety and Liability_Some of the course “fairways” cross and intersect with existing walking and bike paths and are quite close to adjoining properties. Has Parks and Rec. had an independent evaluation of the safety and liability aspects of this course? If there is damage to public or private-adjoining property, or personal injury to a player or someone on a walking or bike path, what is the City’s liability exposure? What recourse will adjoining property owners have if there are broken windows, damaged siding, etc. from mis-thrown discs?
7. Why Leddy Park?_Were other parks or City locations evaluated for disc golf? If Yes, why were these other locations eliminated? If other parks/locations were not evaluated, why not?
8. Supervision. Will there be any supervision of the course? Will there be any restrictions on the use of the course in terms of its use during the seasons of the year, time of day, weather, the number of people, the presence of alcohol and noise levels? If Yes, how will these restrictions be enforced?
9. Will they outline the course with string to show the defined "fairways"; however, a great number of the thrown discs will not remain within the outline of the fairways (ever need to play a golf ball from the "rough", search for a lost ball (discs cost $15-$25 so folks will be walking around outside the course-on vegetation, up and down fragile lakefront banks and steep ravines to retrieve mis-thrown discs)

Decision Process: I had to get a zoning permit just to put in replacement windows. This is what I found out about this Frisbee golf today. I left a message with Parks and Rec, which was returned mid-afternoon. I then called Planning and Zoning. No permits were applied for, nor issued. I faxed over a Zoning compliant form. When I spoke with Parks and Rec I was told that this group of people would just be cutting down brush and shrub (which become our future trees BTW) and it would have a minimal impact. When I informed him about the zoning issue and that I had filed a report, I was told that work had been stopped and that a meeting was being scheduled to determine if a permit was needed. Now it gets to the good part, I just got back from Leddy Park, my definition of a shrub is not a tree that is as thick as my forearm. They have started to cut a 30' wide opening through one of our few remaining woodlands. Imagine 18 of these paths of dirt, and what they will look like after a few years when all the grass is worn down. The people need to decide what is done with our public spaces. Show me the full plan of what is going to be done, how it will be used, and its impact on the area, and then, maybe, I could support this.

Decision Process:
Is there a documented process that Parks and Rec must go through when making improvements to facilities or taking on new sports / etc? Consulting neighborhoods? Putting it up for a vote? Does the city have a plan in place for this? I'm not sure what jurisdiction this falls under - permitting / zoning / etc.? The park is city property, no?

Decision Process:
I've been down through Leddy when softball is in full swing – the amount of auto traffic and parking in the woods is a joke - and think about the trees that were already gone because we want to smack a ball around... this was my point - we need to be supportive of uses in our neighborhoods - but how can we judge what uses are 'right' and what are wrong. If the softballers get a place to play, so should the disc golfers... and I agree that if there is a process that was not followed - there should be a pause and a review. If there is not a process, then this should move forward under the conditions with which it started - and the NPA should work with the city to develop a process for the development of city land / parks / with neighborhood input.

Decision Process:
Regarding the disc golf project: a lot more trees could be down by Sept 4th. The photos show a path of devastation throughout the ENTIRE park! I suggest obtaining a temporary injunction.

Decision Process:
Are you aware that there is an 18 hole disk golf course being built in Leddy Park? Friday when I was walking in the park I saw two members of the disc golf club cutting trees down to make the first couple of holes. This cutting has started on the south side of the park. Please take a look at website. There is a map of the whole layout where trees will be cut and course lay out. When I went to the Burlington Parks and Recreation Web site there is no information about this development. I would like to get community members talking about this. My concern is that no information was posted. All decisions have been put into place and the group has the go ahead from the parks and rec to develop all this wild land. Please talk to your neighbors and inform all park users of this big development. Please contact Parks and Rec and your city council members to discuss what is being done.

Taxpayer Costs and Maintenance:
I do have another question that you may want to discuss a bit during the meeting. If parking becomes an issue up in the free area, will the city require parks and rec parking stickers in order to park in the bigger lot down by the hockey rink? I assume so, and guess this may result in some small revenue associated with the course. As to your comment about where do people go to the bathroom, I noticed there are restrooms up by the soccer fields/tennis courts and I believe the restrooms in the hockey rink are open to the public. I imagine it

Taxpayer Costs and Maintenance:
Will any Parks and Rec. staff time be used on this project? To organize use, or clean up the woods? I ask this because I have talked to Parks and Rec. in the past about having a staff person at Leddy Beach. they told me they did not have the time or staff to have anyone down there at any time. I would not support using Parks and Rec. staff time for the disc golf, if we cannot even have a person overseeing use of the beach. First things first.

Taxpayer Costs and Maintenance:
Who is paying for this? Who will maintain it? Who is carrying the insurance if someone gets hurt? How much are they paying to use the space? Is this a Park and Rec sponsored program? What are the agreements about the hours of use? Is drinking allowed in the park? What about parking?

Competing Uses:
Will the leash law be in effect and enforced on the disc golf course? It in not now enforced at Leddy Park or the beach, and I see this type of activity maybe adding to an already significant problem of unleashed dogs in the park.

Competing Uses:
What is the current use of this area of the park?
Will the new use conflict with current use? How much space will the disc golf course cover?

Competing Uses: Leddy park disc golf will be a serious impact to current park users/adjoiners.

Competing Uses: I had the privilege of talking with
someone who plays this sport. We met at Leddy Park Sat AM. I got to throw one of these "Frisbees", and let me tell you I can see why this group wants to build a course, its FUN. There is a but however, as in Golf when you tee up, you use your biggest club and smack that ball as far as you can, same with disk golf. Your "driver" is kind of heavy and the edges are kind of sharp, you would not want catch it. So picture this, you stand at a tee and throw it as hard and far as you can... but your aim is off, and it goes off course right into the head off some one who was out walking the dog or... I have many more buts,
but will spare you! This is a mixed use park, I don't want to have to worry about this when I'm out walking.

Competing Uses: Howdy Neighbor, FORE! 18 holes of Leddy Park disc golf sounds like trouble and overkill to me. I am a disc golfer myself and would love to have a nearby course. What happened to the Intervale idea? But 18 holes in a multi-use park? One of those uses already being the quiet solitude trail walking/running in the urban forest itself? 18 holes of disc golf on flat wooded terrain (BORING terrain for disc golf to begin with) in multi-use Leddy Park will have a serious impact on adjoiners and current Park users. Most users like a course with more dramatic terrain and interesting holes. Say goodbye to walking in the woods unless you have a good orthodontist and eye goggles. Trust me. You don't want to be hit by one of these projectiles. This use should be seriously studied before it is permitted. Large lanes of forest will need to be cleared for the holes. Walkers will have to dodge the heavy disc projectiles fired off the tees. It will kill a walk in the undisturbed woods for people. If you're biking with any speed and get hit by one of these discs flying from the woods you will not forget it. The weighted disks are made to fly long distances often times a lot longer than the thrower intends. Whoops, is a favored disc golf expression. These are not lightweight Frisbees casually tossed. Usually, most holes require at least two strong throws to reach the
basket. And courses are in out of the way locations. Re. the google map: Neighborhood adjoiners may have players searching for their disks in their backyards let alone siding dents and broken windows. Plus, they change the environment considerably with lots of whoops, hollers,
and FORE!(S) going on by the players. Maybe they can pull off nine holes with minimum current park/use impact but I don't know. Also, usually some fair degree of partying is associated with this sport.
Given the obesity epidemic and the fact that there is a need, how about a much lower impact community built/private donor sponsored fitness trail instead, rather than a beer guzzling disc golf course on some of
Burlington's last urban forest? C'mon guys! In fact, I am here and now proposing a low impact fitness trail thru that property as a viable low impact alternative to this frisbee course and will be contacting city council, park and rec, et al. I think there is a need and that it is a much healthier low impact use for that land and the city should put it to a vote! Let me know if you want to help! Otherwise, get ready to
duck and cover.

Competing Uses: What is one person's nature preserve is another's disc golf course, homeless camp, moutain bike ride, etc. etc. And, its not that your post sounded political - its just that its almost a joke that we get upset about development or removal of trees / wetlands / etc.... yet we don't do anything about our current uses and abuses that cause daily damage to our lungs, lives, land, etc.

Game: How many people are actually going to play? What are the numbers of Burlington residents interested in playing? Personally, I do not see that many people interested in disc golf. Seems like a small number to me.

Game: Who determines who starts in when? Kind of like tee off time in golf.

Will be similar to most golf courses.

Game: Have played in Michigan a few times and it is fun......sort of like a cross between croquet and golf. Perhaps if the Steering Committee would go out a play around members could get more a feel of what he game is all about?

Waterbury has a course and covers 10 acres; How much space will this cover?

Game: What are the game rules? How many people play at a time? Where do we sign up?

Regarding the comment about peeing in the woods, I understand what you are saying, but aren't the homeless guys living in there now doing that same thing? I think that's one of the hidden upsides to this proposal. As a runner in this town you see more than a couple permanent tent sites in the woods just off the bike paths.

General: I grew up in Vermont playing sports, I still do outside rec. I truly do not know the answers to your question of are the brakes on permanently. Because there are still so many questions remaining I feel that anyone who can make a yea/nay, suspect. Someone brought up Starr Farm Road as a possible area. Any thoughts on that? One thing that I can't help but wonder, is if most people can throw a disk 200 plus yards, wouldn't you want a place where you could have a couple of nice long par 5 holes? Some water hazards? Dunno...

General: I learned of disc golf and the planned disc golf course at Leddy Park like many other folks, from the Front Porch Forum posting by Nancy Powers, after work was under way. I was concerned and read the brochure (which gives the impression that the whole park is being taken over), researched the sport online, took four walks on various trails through the park to seek out the course, attended the meeting last Wednesday, and chatted with club members beforehand to find out who they were. I encourage everyone to withhold judgment until all the facts are clear, and to please assume that everyone's opinions, pro and con, are presented with the best of intentions. The disc golf folks I met were a very responsible and "respectable" group. They weren't trying to sneak anything by the public, Parks & Rec wasn't trying to be secretive, and in fact the disc golf folks DID follow the process: they submitted a proposal, met with the P&R Commission and received approval. (And frankly, if we had a newspaper that actually assigned staff to cover city meetings, we would have known about this a long time ago.) Please, let's not make this an "us vs. them" or "not in my backyard" issue. The parks are for all of us, and all points of view deserve respect and consideration. That means finding out the facts and taking the time to LISTEN to those who have a different perspective. Alarmist views on either side of this issue -- and the hostile, "shout-'em-down statements made by several folks at that meeting, are a disservice to all of us.

General: Are development or use permits necessary? Do they have them? Have they looked at other locations? Why can't they use another park like Starr Farm and use portable holes and reserve it for specific times?

We in Burlington love our parks and our trees, but we have to acknowledge that thinning (if it indeed is thinning) is GOOD for a forest. At the same time, those whose properties abut the course and those who regularly walk the trails rightly have concerns that need to be addressed. Meanwhile, I am reminded of the fight that preceded our beautiful bike path, the Waterfront boathouse and related changes. These very positive developments never would have happened if people hadn't let go of their fears and been open to change.

Keep a natural area, natural.

I have mixed feelings regarding the project here - the course could help get more folks outside & using the park, which is always a good thing; however, there are very few undeveloped woods remaining in the NNE. And I'm definitely concerned that the park could be altered so drastically without getting

: Thanks for sending along the links to the group's website & proposed course (it really does cover the entire park!).

Wow !! I took a look at the planned site. It covers almost all of the park. Check out the plan at Gone are the chances to have a quiet walk in the park. This course will cover all the area from the tennis courts and the road to the lake and all around the skating rink and up to the softball diamonds. I am wondering about the parking when the lots are full during Park and Rec Soccer season. I am also amazed that the city thought they could do this without talking to the residents. Who is going to maintain this? I thought we are having financial problems? Lots of questions and so far no answers

General: I am a resident of Lakewood Estates in Burlington and regularly walk in Leddy park. I am writing to express my grave concerns about the impending installation of an 18-hole Disc Golf course in the park. Over the past several weeks I have had numerous conversations and attended several meetings on this subject, including the September 3 informational meeting in Leddy Arena. Those meetings have served to intensify my opposition to this project. Most of the reasons for that opposition were raised at the meeting in Leddy Arena. I would like to reinforce a few of them and elaborate on one of them.
1. Environmental impact: The potential for soil erosion and both short- and long-term damage to wildlife, vegetation, the forest and seasonal wetlands appears to be great but has not yet been adequately assessed.
2. Beauty: I fear that, in addition to trampling vegetation, adding 18 baskets with bright yellow rims to the scenery in Leddy Park will diminish its contribution to Burlington's reputation as one of this country's most beautiful and livable cities.
3. Safety: It has not been made clear how 25 foot "buffers" will protect nearby residents and passersby from a hard disk, capable of traveling 500 feet - particularly when the disks are being hurled by the unsupervised novices who will undoubtedly be attracted to the sport.
4. Traffic: Estimates as to the number of people whom the sport will draw to Leddy Park have been as high as 1000 per week. The parking lot may be able to accommodate the cars, but can the park sustain that kind of use without long-term damage?
5. Planning: What is the long range strategy for Leddy Park? In the absence of a master plan, there is no agreed-upon yardstick against which to measure the appropriateness of a particular recreational proposal. We risk ending up with a park that includes a hodgepodge of ill-conceived and poorly-executed projects.
6. Process: My biggest objection is the process that was employed in making the decision to proceed with this project. It is inconceivable to me how the Commission could have given "conceptual approval" for such a drastic change to one of our parks without notifying and involving the public in advance. The sound of trees being cut was the first we heard about Disc Golf in Leddy Park. As one citizen in the September 3 meeting asked: "How can a private entity make its way into a public park without public input?" You may think me naive, but I believe that our city's parks belong to us, the taxpayers and users. As public servants, you are entrusted with the responsibility for acting on our behalf to manage and protect our parks. In the case of Disc Golf, the lack of public notification - let alone opportunity for public comment - feels to me like a betrayal of the trust we have placed in you.
What is needed now is what should have happened in the first place: an independent and objective assessment which includes a realistic estimate of the number of people that the golf course is likely to attract and its impacts on the environment in Leddy Park and on the safety of nearby residents and park users. I am requesting that the project be stopped indefinitely until such an assessment has been completed and the results have been made public. Then, based on the results of the assessment, a determination can be made as to whether installing a disc golf course in Leddy Park is in the best interests of the city and its citizens.

Other Initiatives:
To endorse an NPA resolution, attend the meeting on Thursday September 18, 6:45 pm, Heineberg Club. To sign a petition, contact Ron McGarvey, or make a copy of the petition below:

Environmental Assessment before Disc Golf at Leddy Park

We, the undersigned residents of Burlington, VT, are petitioning the Parks and Recreation Department and Commission to conduct an independent assessment of the issues below before proceeding with development of a disc golf course at Leddy Park. We feel that such an assessment should include:

1. The impacts of development in this urban forest on wildlife, vegetation and soil erosion.
2. Impact on the safety of current park users.
3. The impacts of significantly increased traffic due to this course, and
4. On-going maintenance costs to the City.

To ensure that Leddy Park continues to be a valuable recreation area for all Burlington residents, we also encourage the Parks and Recreation Department and Commission to develop, with citizen input and assistance, a Master Plan to guide the use, maintenance and future development of the Park.


Bring petition, with signatures, to the NPA meeting on Thursday, Sept. 18, 6:45 pm, Heineberg Center.