Contributed Photo/Courtesy EAC Discovery Park Campus: Reader believes the proposed 18-hole disc golf course not be allowed to be installed at EAC’s Discovery Park Campus over wildlife concerns and more.
I was surprised to read the Oct. 17 Gila Herald article about an “18-hole championship disc golf course” at EAC’s Discovery Park Campus. The story had apparently been written by the club and submitted as though the course had already been approved and work was starting, but it is my understanding that it has not yet been authorized and I am hoping it is not approved there.
While I personally love throwing discs, Discovery Park is not the place to develop a course. My concerns about the proposal touch on several issues:
- The area within the circle shown in the Gila Herald story is the area called Nature’s Hideaway. This area was specifically designated for the study and appreciation of nature with several trails leading through it.
- The cottonwood grove there is part of an award-winning restoration project that received a National Wetlands Award in the early 2000s and is even highlighted on EAC’s website here. Allowing that important habitat to be trampled by those using a disc golf course would be a travesty.
- That restoration work was completed via a $182,000 grant from the Arizona Water Protection Fund with the stated purpose “to create a riparian system in a highly visible area … [that] will provide on-site riparian benefits to wildlife and the [Gila River] watershed. The project has a significant outreach and educational component that will explain the benefits of establishing riparian areas.”
- The cottonwoods there are home to a pair of Gray Hawks. It is estimated that there are fewer than 100 nesting pairs in the entire United States, and this pair has been successfully producing young. This site is especially important given the recent wildfires along the Gila River that have destroyed other nest sites.
- The Gila Herald article noted that the club would remove the weeds and underbrush but this is the habitat that supports the prey items required by the Gray Hawks and many other species that inhabit Discovery Park such as the nesting pair of Great Horned Owls that are frequently observed around the pond where EAC hosts youth educational events.
- A two-hour walk through that area on Sept. 24 yielded 60 species of birds, with a total of 140 species known to occur there.
- An April 4, 2022, article in the Eastern Arizona Courier highlighted the new disc golf course at the Graham County Fairgrounds. That story showed the players using LED-lined discs to compete on the course at midnight. Night disturbance would be especially impactful on nesting hawks and other wildlife.
- If there already is a course at the Fairgrounds, why is another one needed for this small club? If they want 18 holes, why not expand the existing course instead of creating something new? It would save them money to do that.
- I don’t think that a disc golf course has anything to do with education, which is EAC’s mission. EAC biology students now have the perfect place at Nature’s Hideaway to study a diversity of habitats.
- We walk the perimeter loop around the park and it is rare not to see someone else there walking and running on the existing road/trail, so it serves as a great place for nature-based exercise for the community. I frequently see photographers taking yearbook photos or family portraits, and mothers out with their babies in strollers. Having a disc course there would destroy this ambiance, not to mention the possibility of someone getting hit by a flying disc.
- I have talked with numerous people about this proposal and everyone agreed that it made no sense, so it seems that public sentiment is against this 18-hole championship disc golf course at that location.
I hope if an 18-hole championship disc course is really needed, that the nine-hole course at the Fairgrounds could be expanded or a more-appropriate location can be chosen by the club.