Apr 25, 2009

Getting to YES by any means necessary

Parks/Art/Culture Committee
Councilor Karen Paul, Chair
April 25, 2009
Councilor Paul:
Minutes of the July 15, 2008 Parks Commission meeting record that Bob Whalen recommended "conceptual approval" of a disc golf course in Leddy Park "so that the club members can continue to develop details of the proposal and plan fundraising and implementation strategies." Commissioners unanimously "approve[d] the concept."
Commissioner David Hartnett told us that he was voting on conceptual approval only, that there were many questions unanswered and they didn't have details yet. He thought the plan would come back for more discussion, and he was surprised when the tree cutting was reported. Other commission members are *now saying that "approve the concept" is the language they customarily use for final approval. The minutes support Hartnett's understanding. (Minutes copied below.)
People in Wards 4 and 7 feel swindled and tricked by the Parks Commission, and by Parks Dept staff who ran a series of working group meetings with a *stacked deck, and ground rules that changed repeatedly.
  • The NPAs were invited to nominate representatives to evaluate a proposal to build a disc golf course in Leddy Park.
  • The Leddy Park Disc golf Working Group was set up with 4 disc golf advocates and 3 other residents. All were instructed to communicate with their NPAs.
  • Only three working group members communicated with their NPAs. Kearney, Jenkins and Hunt reported monthly, sought input at NPA meetings, provided updates to residents at NPA meetings and provided information between meetings on FPF. When they voted NO to disc golf course in Leddy Park, they were representing their NPAs. Other members represented their friends or the disc golf club.
  • Early in the process, several working group members suggested that other sites would be better than Leddy Park. The Working Group was told by Parks staff that they could not discuss any other sites, that their charge was to evaluate the Leddy Park proposal only and vote on that.
  • At the last working group meeting, Mar. 24, the vote was 3-3 (one member was absent). The meeting should have ended!
  • But, the rules changed again. The working group was asked to make a list of recommendations for a disc golf course in Burlington, disc golf in general, and since there was no majority vote, one member from each side was invited to report to the Parks Commission on Apr 28.
  • A press release from the Parks Commissioner also ignored the vote as if it never happened. He reported that the Parks Commission approved a proposal from the BTown Disc Golf Club. The July 15, 2008 minutes do not support this claim.
  • The rules have changed again. Each working group member has now been invited to speak to the Parks Commission on Apr. 28.
We -- residents of Wards 4 and 7, and many other people in the city -- feel tricked and lied to. This Parks Commission and Parks Department are examples of government at its worst, process at it's lowest level of trickery. The working group was initially set up to favor disc golf in Leddy Park, and when they didn't deliver a majority vote, Parks Dept changed the rules.
Residents of Ward 4 and 7 respectfully request an opportunity to discuss this further with the Parks/Arts/Culture Committee and the Mayor. We want trustworthy process and accountability in city government, and since City Council and the Mayor appoints the Parks Commission, and the Parks Department director, we ask you to review this disc-golf-in-Leddy- Park mess and hold the Parks Commission and Parks staff accountable to you and to the taxpayers they serve.
Lea Terhune
Ward 4, NPA Steering Committee member

Minutes, Parks Commission meeting July 15, 2008
VIIB. Consideration of Proposal for Disc Golf Course Development

Whalen explained that other groups had come to him in the past and that the current group has definitely been the most persistent, committed and organized. He recommended that the Commission give conceptual approval of the proposal so that the club members can continue to develop details of the proposal and plan fundraising and implementation strategies.

The club members then introduced themselves and explained that disc golf has been around for 40 years, serves several different age populations and is a lot like golf but is played in natural areas. In addition the club explained that the sport offers healthy benefits for players as well as benefits to the community. The location is proposed at Leddy and will currently occupy space that is not utilized. The club proposes to use existing pathways where possible and generally only remove underbrush and saplings.

The club stated that they had hundreds of people interested in this project and have formed a non-profit and intend to raise $10,000. They said they were asking for approval of the project, but would appreciate input from the Commission and Department.

Hanson asked how this would affect people walking on the trails at Leddy and if a fee would be charged for players and was assured that people playing golf would not be directly on the trail but off the path and will also have out of bounds areas as well and there would be no fee to the City with the exception of some trash receptacles.

Ewing asked if there would need to be a lot of clearing of trees and was told very little and Nolfi asked if there were a lot of open spots and was told no as well.

Some concerns were raised about possible vandalism to the proposed project as well as some concern about college students and alcohol use/abuse and the club indicated that this has not been a problem at other facilities and they do not anticipate any at this location but would be mindful of these issues.

Allen asked if any neighborhood outreach has happened yet and also was concerned with too much signage and was told that they are currently in the process of doing some outreach and the signage would be minimal and they wanted to get further approval from the Commission before moving further.

Motion to approve the concept for a disc golf course. Hanson/Ewing. Motion carried.

*stacked deck, "now saying": If organizations are allowed to operate with rules or practices that are hugely slanted, they are often defended with the old chestnut of "That's the way we've always done it." Each time I encounter this, I marvel at how otherwise good people can rationalize shabby practices.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Wayne Gross" <WGross@ci.Burlington.vt.us>
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2009 10:30 AM
Subject: Re: Public Comment

> Hello to All:
> I have received a number of emails of late raising various questions
> about the Disc Golf Working Group. Let me clarify a few things. First,
> the Group is a public body and their meetings will be open to the
> public. A public forum will be provided at the start of each meeting.
> Please note that the purpose of such a forum is for the public to make
> comments to the Group. Regarding the scope of work for the Group, they are
> charged with reviewing various issues related to the possible
> development of a disc golf course only at Leddy Park and with making
> recommendations about this proposal to the Parks and Recreation
> Commission. They will not be evaluating other potential park sites for
> their suitability for a disc golf course. The Commission is interested
> in the Group's recommendation regarding Leddy Park and once this has
> been received, they will debate the issue and make a final
> recommendation to the City Council. I hope that this information is
> helpful to you and I look forward to seeing the results of the Working
> Group's efforts.
> Wayne E. Gross
> Director
> Parks & Recreation