The Village of DeForest trustees and staff have come under fire in recent weeks for exploring an informal proposal to expand the sport of disc golf at two of the village's parks.
DeForest staff have been exploring implementing a three or four hole disc golf practice course at Liberty Land Park and a nine to 12 hole disc golf play course at Western Green Park.
The proposals were first introduced to the village board at its meeting on Sept. 6, 2022.
When asked if the idea initially had been a proposal by a specific local group or citizen, or if the project proposal was conceived of by village staff, DeForest Director of Public Services Judd Blau told the Times-Tribune that the idea came from a discussion amongst staff, in response to surveys conducted for park and land use planning.
In the village’s 2020-2024 Parks and Open Space Plan, adolescents ages 13-18 were the primary age group that most community members (49.4%) felt were not being adequately served by park facilities.
“Disc golf is an activity that adolescents in this age group can participate in which does not require a large capital investment when compared to other activities like a baseball diamond or basketball courts,” Blau said. “The report shows that approximately 37% of all respondents stated that more facilities are needed in the future.”
Two meetings were held to offer a formal public comment and hearing on the proposals, at the village board’s regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7 and at a specially-scheduled community open house meeting on Monday, Feb. 13. Both were well attended, with standing-room only at the latter.
The open house even attracted the attention of Madison media, with Channel 3000/WISC-TV sending a reporter for a two-minute broadcast on that evening’s news.
Between those who spoke at the two meetings and people who have submitted written comments on the proposals, Blau estimates that the village has heard from around 100 to 150 residents as of Feb. 28.
“We’ve heard some support, but mostly opposition,” Blau said when asked about the current consensus of those comments.
As of Wednesday, March 1, a Change.org petition started by a community member opposing the project had received 273 signatures during its first week online.
A Facebook group called DeForest -Windsor Conservation Community launched Feb. 5 had 118 members as of March 1. In its first month, it has been a sounding board for concerns about the disc golf project proposals as well as other plans for local parks and conservation areas.
Common concerns stated on the Change.org petition and in the Facebook group have been about preserving the parks for passive activities such as picnics or sitting, that errant discs could injure walkers or runners, and that nature should be protected as a space for sanctuary, not sports.
Some have pointed out that in the 2020-2024 Parks and Open Spaces Plan, it calls for “protect[ing] environmental corridors and other sensitive ecological areas for stormwater and flood management areas,” being an objective, and that Western Green Park is adjacent to the Yahara River Environmental Corridor, so the disc golf project seems at odds with that directive.
Opponents have also argued that the nearby Vallarta-Ast disc golf course Token Creek County Park in DeForest should be adequate for those who wish to engage in the game.
Meanwhile, supporters have gathered in Facebook groups such as Madison Disc Golf, calling for disc golfers to engage in “respectful, meaningful conversations” with opponents.
For anyone who still wishes to comment, they are welcome to attend future board meetings to give public comments orally, or send written comments by email to village trustees, Blau said.
“We are accepting public comment and will be compiling the public comment and questions into a report that will be presented to the Village Board on March 21st with a staff recommendation,” DeForest Recreation and Community Enrichment Director Reese O’Malley said.
At the end of January, O’Malley told the Times-Tribune that the project was still in the early planning stages. A letter had been sent out to residents that would be “directly impacted” by the potential projects, she said.
“I think it is important to note that the village board has not given final approval yet for these projects to move forward. We truly are looking forward to getting the community's feedback for staff to give a recommendation to the board,” O’Malley said at the time.