The future of a popular Anchorage park is in the making: Should it include disc golf?
Mountain View’s Davis Park already boasts walking paths, ball fields, picnic tables and a rugby pitch. If you ask the Alaska Disc Golf Association (ADGA), the 95-acre green space is one of two sites potentially suitable for a new northeast Anchorage disc golf course.
But some of Davis Park’s own neighbors are speaking out against the idea.
“I’m a strong advocate of leaving [the park] the way it is,” said Dan Maher, a Mountain View resident and Davis Park regular who can often be found walking his two dogs through the wooded neighborhood green space. “This is a neighborhood park and it should be designed for the people in the neighborhood.”
Disc golf advocates disagree.
“That’s not what it’s about,” said Louie Orozco, ADGA treasurer. “We’re looking at the big picture for the entire city.”
The course proposal is part of a months-long master planning process led by Anchorage’s Parks and Recreation Department. A committee comprised of park stakeholders—Maher and Orozco included—met for the first time in January to discuss ideas and site constraints. Assistant park planner Steve Rafuse said the entire process will most likely wrap up by fall 2015 and, once complete, the master plan will guide future development and funding requests for new projects at Davis Park.
While the master plan is still in the works, the concept of a disc golf course at Davis Park is years old.
In 2012, a municipal advisory group listed the Mountain View park alongside five other locations as potential sites for the new course. At the time, the advisory group said Davis Park “was perceived as being unsafe” and “too distant.” These days, things have changed.
“If you put baskets in the ground, people will drive to play that,” Orozco said.
According to the advisory committee’s 2012 opinion, northeast Anchorage’s Centennial Park is another possible candidate for a new disc golf course. The terrain is more varied than Davis Park, but the parking is sparse and infrastructure is limited.
Meanwhile, Orozco said Anchorage’s growing disc golf community has far outpaced the existing facilities. Courses at Kincaid Park, Westchester Lagoon, Peter’s Creek, Hilltop Ski Area, Russian Jack Springs Park and a small handful of local middle and high schools aren’t enough for 20,000 or so players.
The Westchester course—formerly one of the most popular in Anchorage— was temporarily closed in the summer of 2012 due to “lack of existing management guidelines and siting criteria” and neighbors’ concerns. Their concerns centered on deteriorating park conditions, according to a site study released later that year. The study listed drinking, drug use and vandalism as ongoing problems. Westchester remains a seasonal course to this day.
In East Anchorage, Orozco said, the Russian Jack course is “a joke.” With no other courses in the area and a strong demand citywide, he said a new course is “totally, 100 percent necessary.”
There may be a demand in other parts of town, but Maher doesn’t see it in Mountain View.
This is a neighborhood of pickup basketball games and rugby tournaments, he said; picnics in the park and busy playgrounds and dogs running off-leash through Davis Park. There’s a Little League and ultimate Frisbee games in the summer, but people around here don’t play disc golf.
“Maybe at the next meeting, 200 people that love disc golf from the Mountain View neighborhood will be there, but as of right now it was only the [one] disc golf person,” Maher said.
Are there any advocates in the neighborhood? Until they emerge from the woodwork, Maher said, the Municipality should focus its efforts on maintaining the existing park amenities and expanding the things that see the most use.
The wood bollards that line the park’s western edge are aging, broken and in need of repair. In the summer, before volunteers stepped in to clean it up, the park was crowded with overgrown brush and fallen trees. Homeless camps and garbage dotted the woods. There used to be simple exercise stations along the walking trail, but between vandalism and disrepair they fell out of use and were eventually ripped out.
“Nothing lasts forever,” Maher said. “The bottom line is, if you’re gonna put in infrastructure, you need to maintain it.”
Orozco said he sees a disc golf course as a positive for the neighborhood park. When baskets go in the ground, tents tend to disappear. That’s what happened at Westchester, he said. Bringing new outdoor enthusiasts into Davis Park could help keep campers away and change the public’s perception of the area.
“We’re almost like unpaid security,” Orozco said. “I think having a disc golf course in those troubled areas is a good thing.”
Orozco said disc golf courses serve players from all sides of town and are never intended to cater to one specific area. If the disc golf course becomes part of the Davis Park master plan, he said, it would not go unused. It would draw new people into the neighborhood; fill green spaces with people staying active in the great outdoors. Isn’t that what parks are all about?
“We just all have to learn to get along,” he said.
On that point, disc golf advocates and opponents alike seem to agree. The question that divides them remains whether those outdoor spaces should serve the neighborhoods around them or the Municipality as a whole.
At Davis Park, Maher said, “The people who use it like it the way it is.”
“I want to welcome everyone who wants to come in here, but let’s not displace those who are already established using the park,” he said. “If we can use it together in harmony, that’s great, but I don’t want to be walking through the park and have somebody hit me in the head with a Frisbee.”
The Parks and Recreation Department is still looking for feedback on the Davis Park master plan: A public open house is set to take place Feb. 10 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Mountain View Library.