Shooting for par in the parks
A dearth of disc-golf options in the immediate area stands to end in the near future.
On Tuesday, July 14, Aurora City Council voted unanimously to approve the installation of disc-golf baskets in the city's park. That action followed a cue from Hubbard, which approved a similar project earlier this year.
"We had about $10,000 in the budget set aside for parks improvements, and the Parks Committee wanted to make some tangible improvements that the public could see right away," Aurora City Recorder Scott Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen likes to get outdoors and throw the disc around, and normally finds himself heading to places like Wilsonville or Newberg, communities with parks that feature disc-golf baskets. Other area disc-golf options include Champoeg and Willamette Mission state parks, but heading through the north-south corridor of Highway 99E, options are sparse between Salem and Canby; the latter features North Eco Park, which fields a 12-hole course.
When chatter of the possibility arose in Aurora, Jorgensen headed over to Aurora City Park and strolled the area, envisioning how such a feature could be incised into the grounds. Parks Committee Chair Stuart Cregger saw him and stopped by to say he had a 300-foot tape measure that could be put to use on the task.
The planning was on.
The idea is to place the course in a manner that will not interfere with other park activities. There is also a need to make the feature usable by as many people as possible, and keep it low maintenance.
"Courses and the way you design them is tricky. Every fairway is supposed to be a par 3; they have to appeal to beginners and not be too difficult, but they have to be challenging enough to attract guys who have been playing for awhile," Jorgensen said.
He informally surveyed people around town, and they all seemed to think having a disc-golf course is a good idea. More advocacy of that sort can be found down the road in Hubbard, where chiropractor Matt Fryauf has taken up the passion.
Fryauf also is an avid disc golfer and relatively new to the community. He harbored a similar vision when he strolled the town's Jan Lafollette Park (formerly Mill Creek Nature Park), a trailed, creek-bordered expanse on the edge of town.
"One day I was exploring the parks of Hubbard when I found a beautiful nature park. ... I couldn't help but notice that the layout of the trails, the change in elevation, and the well-maintained area would be a perfect space to build five disc golf holes," Fryauf said. "The first time I visited the park, I also noticed that no one else was there. I figured that building a disc golf course on the already beautiful park would bring more attention to an underutilized park."
Fryauf floated the idea before Hubbard Mayor Charles Rostocil, and the mayor was intrigued.
Rostocil and his wife met with Fryauf and found his enthusiasm "contagious." They directed Fryauf to work with Hubbard Public Works, and soon the plan was taking shape and heading to the City Council for a stamp of approval.
"It would be an amazing amenity that could be of great benefit to the community, especially in a park that is not used that much," Rostocil said.
Fryauf reasoned that Hubbard's Rivenes Park offers many amenities, such as horseshoes, basketball, a kids' playground and picnic features. Barendse Park features baseball and softball fields.
"Building a disc golf course at Jan Lafollette Park would help perfect the available activities for the community to enjoy at the parks of Hubbard," he said.
Fryauf's short-term vision is to install five baskets at the park, and he is seeking sponsorship to that end. He said there is a large plot of county land adjacent to the park, which is deemed unfit for building due to zoning regulations. It is owned by a construction company, and he has been reaching out to the owners with hopes of expanding his current plan into a full-fledged course.
Fryauf also is working through other details, such as safety, signage, parking and designing course layouts that don't create a disc trajectory toward homes that border the park.
A popular activity
Disc golf has consistently gained popularity over the past several decades, in large part because it is an inexpensive, family-friendly activity that provides a framework to an outdoor endeavor.
"It gives people a new excuse to get out and explore," said Scott Keasey, general manger of the California-based Disc Golf Association.
Keasey said he attended a conference in Baltimore recently when he learned of a course called Iron Hill not too far away, in Delaware. After the conference he found himself driving into a state he had never visited and tossing discs while hiking through an intriguing park.
"Next thing I know, I'm in my rental car going to play this course where I'd never been before — and it was awesome," Keasey said.
He attributes these types of experiences to disc golf's growing popularity.
DGA was founded decades ago by "Steady" Ed Headrick, whom Keasey refers to as the "Johnny Appleseed of the sport.
"Imagine someone talking to parks departments back in the '70s, and trying to convince them of this (then obscure) idea," he said.
It's not so obscure today.
Oregondiscgolf.com maps out scores of courses all through the state — and that's one state. DGA tallies indicate there are more than 7,500 disc-golf courses in the United States, and the number of players is estimated to be in the millions.
"It's absolutely growing," Keasey said. "It's a low-cost recreational activity. Normally it's free to play, and the equipment to play starts at around $10. It's the flight of the disc and learning how to manipulate it that gets people hooked."
Keasey said the camaraderie of the game also is appealing to many, as beating the course is often more of a focal point than beating your opponent — although that can be fun as well.
Aurora and Hubbard
Plans in the northern Marion County towns would stand to shore up the activity, adding to the vaunted Champoeg State Park disc-golf option, which is known and lauded even by out-of-state DGA officials.
Jorgensen said the Aurora feature will likely start at one end of the parking lot, wrap around the park in a manner that doesn't interfere with other activities, then finish up near the same parking area.
"Ideally, it will be a setting where people are not going to lose discs," he said.
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