A disc golf course at McAllister Community Park? No thanks, neighbors say

An 18-hole disc golf course has been proposed for Lacey’s McAllister Community Park and that has neighbors alarmed.

They’re concerned that a multi-use park, a destination for residents in many surrounding neighborhoods, will become a single-use park, monopolized by disc golfers.

They also have raised concerns about potential effects on the historic Garry oak trees, wildlife and wetlands at the park east of Marvin Road and south of Union Mills Road.

And they’ve seen it in action.

Disc golf tournaments already have been held at the 60-acre park, including one in September in which neighbors say they counted 70 cars parked on the north side of 19th Avenue Southeast, a street that feeds into a subdivision called McAllister Park.

“This is the entrance to our neighborhood,” said Lori Richardson, part of a group of area residents who oppose the disc golf proposal.

The group calls itself the McAllister Citizens for Preserving our Natural Heritage. They also have a counter-proposal that would rename the park McAllister Heritage Park.

“It’s just not a good fit,” resident Valerie Dohoda said about the disc golf proposal.

South Puget Sound Disc Golf Association president John Anderson believes the course and neighbors can coexist.

“We want their input,” he said.

How it came to this

The disc golf association made the proposal last year, but Lacey’s parks board wasn’t able to consider it, so the proposal was rolled over to this year’s parks board work plan, said Jen Burbidge, the city’s parks director. The city has owned the park since 1994. It is outside the city limits, but inside Lacey’s urban growth area.

Meanwhile, at about the same time, the parks department booked disc golf tournaments at the park, including one set for this month. After that, however, the tournaments will be put on hold at the park so that the city and parks board can work through the proposal, she said.

A decision could be made this year.

A neighbor learned about the proposal and posted signs at the park to alert other residents. That led to about 30 residents attending a parks board meeting in April, and then twice that number showed up in May, Richardson said.

The association is prepared to make its presentation to the parks board at its meeting in September, Anderson said Friday.

How much authority does the parks board have? Here’s the process, Burbidge said.

“If the parks board approves the use of McAllister Park for periodic disc golf tournaments, or decides that organized disc golf doesn’t belong at McAllister Park, the topic will not move forward to City Council for review,” she said in an email to The Olympian. “If the parks board recommends an interim or permanent disc golf course at McAllister Park, the topic would move forward to City Council for final approval.”

Periodic use would mean all of the disc golf equipment would remain portable, Burbidge said. An interim or permanent step means the equipment would become a fixture at the park.

The City Council wouldn’t weigh in on periodic use because the parks department already has the authority to take reservations and book events at area parks, she said.

Concerned resident Robert Gann could live with 1-2 disc golf tournaments a year at the park, but that comes with a big “if,” he said. If the disc golfers are responsible.

But after previous tournaments, Gann said he was disappointed to find garbage and beer cans left behind. They should act their age, he said.

“These are grown men; these are not kids,” he said.

Another resident, Strong Paulson, doesn’t even want disc golf played there on a periodic basis.

“I don’t want to see any tournaments at all,” he said.

The disc golf association

Anderson said the association is 14 years old and has grown to 130 paid members.

Disc golf, which is played with a Frisbee-like disc that is tossed into a vertical, hanging basket ( the “hole”), is played at Woodland Creek Community Park in Lacey and on the campuses of Saint Martin’s University and The Evergreen State College, he said.

It used to be played at Yauger Park in west Olympia until the city needed to reconfigure the park for storm water needs, he said.

Like golf with a ball, disc golf has its own etiquette, too.

“We know that we are sharing the park,” said Anderson, recalling a March tournament at McAllister that attracted 72 players. He also said there was a hang-glider at the park that day and two drones in the sky above it and “everyone got along.”

He did acknowledge that some people fear getting hit by a disc, but he compared it to a foul ball at a baseball game.

“People have to be aware of where they are and that things can happen,” he said, “but it’s part of our due diligence to eliminate those liabilities.”

A well-designed disc golf course can alleviate those fears, Anderson said.

McAllister Community Park neighbors have suggested that disc golf either be expanded at Woodland Creek or moved to Greg J. Cuoio Community Park, but Anderson said the city won’t allow it to be expanded at Woodland Creek, and Cuoio is years away from being ready.

Anderson believes that once disc golf is installed at McAllister, neighbors will barely notice it.

“We are willing to do all the work and pay for the equipment,” he said. “We just need permission.”

Rolf has worked at The Olympian since August 2005. He covers breaking news, the city of Lacey and business for the paper. Rolf graduated from The Evergreen State College in 1990.