Disc golf delays frustrate players

Complaints about foul behavior at Holmes Park led Medford to close that course, and finding a new site has been challenging

MEDFORD — Complaints from neighbors caused the city of Medford to remove a flying disc golf course from Holmes Park in east Medford. Now the disc golfers are the ones complaining after a promised relocated course has failed to materialize. The Medford Parks & Recreation Commission initially planned to relocate the nine-hole course from the park on Modoc Avenue to Bear Creek Park, about a half-mile away.

That plan was scratched when the city discovered that land-use codes would require construction of a parking lot and improvements to nearby Spencer Street to serve the additional traffic, said Brian Sjothun, parks and recreation director. Those parking and street upgrades would cost $300,000 to $500,000, an amount beyond the city's budget for the disc golf project, Sjothun said.

Next month, the parks commission will assemble a subcommittee, including some disc golf players, to study potential locations for an 18-hole course. The subcommittee's report is due in June, Sjothun said. The report will include possible locations, associated land-use requirements and the cost to relocate, he said.

In disc golf, players throw a flying disc — Frisbee is the commonly used brand name — into a basket. As in the game of golf, the object of disc golf is to hit the target in the fewest number of strokes, or in this case, tosses. The sport has been referred to as "blue-collar golf" because it's often possible to play free of charge.

Grants Pass resident Gregg Guthrie, who built the disc course at Holmes Park about 10 years ago, said he was frustrated at the pace at which Medford officials are moving to replace the course.

Guthrie said there are seven disc golf courses in Josephine County and now, none in Jackson County.

"These (courses) serve the community well as free recreation for kids," Guthrie said. "The city promised to move it, and it hasn't happened."

Neighbors near Holmes Park had complained to the city for several years about disc golfers' foul language, public drinking, outdoor urination, loud radios and generally poor manners, Sjothun said.

The parks director said he visited the park more than a dozen times to observe the players' behavior and found that the players often were engaging in the behavior the neighbors described.

The Hoover Elementary Parent Teacher Organization at one point informed the city that parents were no longer allowing their children to use the park out of fear for the kids' safety.

The complaints eventually prompted the parks commission to dismantle the disc golf course in the fall.

"It's unfortunate for families who use disc golf as low-cost recreation," Sjothun said. "It's often the minority that spoil it for the majority but during our observations it was a majority (that was misbehaving)."

The city plans to develop a code of conduct for any new disc course to prevent some of the problems that occurred at the previous course, Sjothun said.

"One of the things we don't want to do is to move the same problem to another location," Sjothun said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

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