Tour of park’s disc-golf course raises questions

Lon Glazner, right, and Dan Efseaff lead a tour of Peregrine Point disc-golf course.

Lon Glazner, right, and Dan Efseaff lead a tour of Peregrine Point disc-golf course.

Photo By Tom Gascoyne

The disc-golf course. Mention those words to a Chicoan, and the reaction is one of profound support, determined opposition or a head-scratching “What’s the big deal?”

The course, officially known as Peregrine Point in honor of the falcons known to have nested there, is seen by players as a source of inexpensive fun at a spectacular part of Bidwell Park. Opponents say the game brings too much impact to that sensitive part of the park that sits about three miles east of town on the north side of Highway 32.

On June 19 the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission held a special meeting at the course to get a feel for the course and better understand its nature.

The course has been there since the 1980s, bootlegged onto what was then U.S. Bureau of Land Management property. The city acquired it in 1994 and added it to the park. Opponents of the course called on the city to address it, but city officials said they couldn’t because it was not covered in the park’s master management plan.

In 2008, after the plan was updated, the City Council voted to have the course removed. The disc golfers launched a referendum and gathered 8,000 signatures to force a ballot measure. But the city attorney ruled that the effort did not meet legal standards, and it was rejected. But Councilman Andy Holcombe said the people had spoken and called for a compromise to keep the course but make it more environmentally acceptable.

The plan called for the removal of the heavily used short course on the site, the realignment of the less-used long course and yearly studies to determine the impact on the environment.

A nonprofit called The Outsiders was formed to raise money for the studies and do the work of installing the new course with protective mitigation like tree barriers to deflect flying discs and mulch to protect tree roots and drip lines. Lon Glazner, a long-time disc-golf supporter, serves as the group’s secretary and self-described “reluctant spokesman.”

Glazner attended the June 19 meeting, as did Dan Efseaff, the city’s Park and Natural Resources manager. They were joined by just two of the five park commissioners, Lisa Emmerich and Jim Moravec; a couple of members of Friends of Bidwell Park, a staunch opponent of the course’s location; a couple of disc golfers; park ranger Jessica Erdahl; and Denise Britton, the city’s urban forester.

Early in the tour Glazner said many of the disc golfers believe the city “is out to get them.”

Efseaff asked what he meant, and Glazner suggested there is a double standard at work and the rangers pay more attention to the disc golfers than, say, people walking their dogs off leash and off trail. And he said golfers get kicked off the course in wet weather sooner than those using other parts of the park.

Erdahl assured Glazner that people using Lower Park were much more likely to be cited than those in Upper Park where the course is located.

During the tour of the course, Britton examined the blue oaks that stand in the course for limb and bark damage.

“I think the mitigation is working,” she said, “but the monitoring to verify that takes a period of years.”

The 2011 study draft report indicated rare plants like Bidwell knotweed and checkerbloom are not being adversely affected, at least after one year of monitoring. However, an invasive non-native plant called barbed goat grass has been discovered.

The pair of peregrine falcons for whom the course is named have apparently moved on to the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve, reports Josephine Guardino, a member of Friends of Bidwell Park.

For his part Efseaff, who gained his position within the last few years, said he realized the matter is highly emotional and has been for some time.

“I’ve been living in Chico for quite a while, and I’ve followed the drama that’s unfolded over the years about the course,” he said. “For me coming in at this time with [mitigations] getting shifted toward implementation, it’s a different conversation. Let’s see how we can make it have the least impact, be a nice facility—all of that stuff. It’s a different conversation than in the decade past.”

Glazner said he respects Efseaff.

“I think he is reasonable and nice guy and he is doing a good job. One of the things he seemed to want to do early on was tamp down the crossfire that was going on. That seems to have happened.

“People look at me and what I have to say and think this is from all disc golfers. But I’m just a secretary of a nonprofit that was basically forced into existence by the city of Chico.”