MASON CITY – An agreement between Mason City and property owners who live near the site of a proposed disc golf course on city-owned land remains elusive after months of talks.
A contentious Mason City park board meeting was held on January 12 to try to get to the bottom of how to use city-owned land north and northwest of the East Park sledding hill. This land was the former home to flooded houses, destroyed or damaged in the 2008 flood. Those houses are gone, and the land is now owned by the city of Mason City and sitting idle. Officials proposed a new amenity to be installed there: an 18-hole course for disc golf, an activity that is rapidly gaining popularity and fits with the Blue Zone mantra of the community.
Recreation Director Brian Pauly and other volunteers spent many hours laying out a course on this land, even gaining the blessing of Mayor Eric Bookmeyer, who they took on a walking tour of the proposed course as it was designed.
All was in place to move forward – until property owners in the adjacent Oak Park neighborhood brought their concerns to the park board. Some property owners expressed actual fear of disc golfers. Some said they feel the “demographics” of frisbee golfers could pose a safety risk to them and their children – even as they claimed to welcome “anyone” to their neighborhood. Other homeowners said the course would adversely affect their property values. Another concern brought forward was that discs allegedly may travel at speeds over 100 miles per hour and pose a serious health risk to people.
Overall, a number of people spoke at the January park board meeting, including property owners, city officials/employees and disc golfers themselves, who tried to tell the neighborhood they are not bad people and would be respectful of nearby homeowners. Other issues such as parking were raised and addressed, as well.
A map of the proposed course showed that only a few property owners would be near the proposed course. (It should also be noted that not every property owner in the Oak Park neighborhood has complained or even offered an opinion on this development.) At the scene around 7th Street NE, the area is mostly barren with only a few houses around, mostly farther north by the actual Oak Park itself.
Remedies were sought during the meeting to move disc golf holes farther away from homes to try to appease property owners. Park board members said that despite the fact the 2008 flood happened nearly 8 years ago, the “neighborhood had been through enough” and they would not pursue a course nearby if the property owners were against it.
That being said, immediately following the January meeting, the consensus was that after much discussion at that meeting that cleared up a lot of misunderstanding, all parties would work together to finalize how a disc golf course could be built near the Oak Park neighborhood on land owned by the city. The park board appeared encouraged by the developments and awaited developments in talks between both sides of the issue.
“NIT is now told that after Tuesday’s (Park Board) meeting, the Oak Park neighborhood is willing to work with the Park Board on moving some holes around to accommodate the course,” NIT reported back on January 15, after talks had progressed in a positive direction.
However, NIT is told this week that since these developments in January, no agreement has been reached between the city and the Oak Park neighborhood on the disc golf course. In fact, the issue seems to gave regressed to an impasse.
Recreation Director Brian Pauly tells NIT that he last met with concerned Oak Park neighborhood property owners on February 15th to continue to listen to their concerns, and see “if there was common ground for a compromise.”
Mr. Pauly says he believes now that “the neighborhood will be pursuing the city to turn the land into a preserve.”
The Oak Park neighborhood has an unofficial spokesperson, local attorney Jim Locher, who lives in the neighborhood and attended the January 12 park board meeting.
Mr. Locher tells NIT this morning that the objective of the Oak Park neighborhood is to have the city-owned land become a “multi-purpose nature area … that’s our objective”.
Mr. Locher says property owners that are against the disc golf course envision a use for the land that is not “single-purpose” but “more inclusive”.
“The impact (of the disc golf course) would be not limited to the immediate property owners. Anyone using the neighborhood would be affected. If it was single-purpose, you are limited.” He says others who might venture into the unofficial boundaries of the neighborhood, such as bikers or “people pushing strollers … would not be possible” or would be hindered in some way due to a disc golf course being there.
However, Mr. Locher ruled out legal action against the city should they pursue the disc golf course, and said “I don’t want to sound like we are inflexible … we have had some conversations that are useful. I don’t think any position is fixed in concrete. I hope to talk to Brian Pauly in April … we are listening to him.”
He also wanted to clear up a possible mis-understanding.
“One thing I want to dispel is that this is an elitist neighborhood. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are accustomed to all people You’ve heard of not in my back yard … that’s not going on here.”
At this time, Mr. Pauly says he is trying to forge ahead with a course, somewhere.
“I am currently going to present two different course ideas and currently trying to come up with a third one to present at the next board meeting,” on April 12th.
NIT will report further developments.
UPDATE: Thursday afternoon:
“I was asked by the Mason City Parks and Recreation Board to come up with a disc golf course for our community. I truly believe this is the best place for a new course and probably is the only place to host a 18 hole course. In addition, the Mason City Blues Zones Project(tm) community policy committee designated a new disc golf course would be built to change the environment of our community. As the Superintendent of Recreation, I will continue to provide additional recreation opportunities for the community. I believe in expansion of quality of life projects such as this disc golf course is needed to develop and grow a city.”
– Brian Pauly, Recreation Director