Disc golfers tee off on council decision
Referendum campaign gets off to a fast start
If networking and the Internet can get Barack Obama elected president of the United States, certainly they can get disc golf restored to Upper Bidwell Park.
That seems to be the thinking behind the referendum campaign to overturn the Chico City Council’s Nov. 18 decision banning further use of the bootleg disc-golf courses off Highway 32 east of town. People may think of the sport as a slacker version of real golf, but this campaign is anything but slack. It’s highly organized and technologically sophisticated, and it clearly has a wide base of support in the community.
The campaign officially kicked off on a sunny Monday (Dec. 1) with a drop-in signature-gathering and organizational meeting on the back patio at the Madison Bear Garden restaurant downtown, with two more scheduled for later this week.
CEPCO’s Bob Linscheid, a member of the CSU Board of Trustees, was there. He’s a big backer of the effort. And Councilman Larry Wahl was there too, signing up to be a member of one of the campaign’s petition-gathering teams.
Organizers, all decked out in identical black T-shirts with bold white lettering saying “Restore Disc Golf!” were either collecting signatures or signing up people to be members of collection teams.
They need to collect 4,800 valid signatures by Dec. 18 to force the City Council to reconsider—or put to a public vote—its approval of the update of the Bidwell Park Master Management Plan, which included a decision to remove the existing disc-golf courses on the site and restore the land to its original conditions.
A narrow majority of council members—Andy Holcombe, Ann Schwab, Tom Nickell and Mary Flynn—voted against the courses in the face of considerable support for them. The site has been in use for 19 years, and hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people have played there.
Although the city’s Bidwell Park and Playground Commission approved disc golf on the site (by a similar 4-3 vote), four of the council members believed the site was too sensitive environmentally and that using it for an intensive activity was contrary to park policy favoring “passive uses” (hiking, biking, swimming, etc.) in Upper Park.
Disc-golf supporters immediately began their referendum campaign. They have a Web site (www.restorediscgolf.com), a blog (Lon Glazner’s “Commission Impossible” at www.norcalblogs.com/commission), a Facebook group (accessible from the Web site) and a strong organizational structure based on signature-gathering teams led by disc-golf fans.
In an interview Glazner, who has long been a leader in the disc-golf effort and seems to be the de facto chief of this one, said the idea was to form 10 or 11 teams, each with 10 or more members. Once formed, the teams will go door-to-door in designated neighborhoods, collecting signatures. If each member gets 100 signatures, the total will be more than 10,000, plenty for success.
Glazner said he’s already collected his hundred—101, to be exact. It took seven hours, and only six people refused to sign, most because they didn’t have time.
“Going neighbor to neighbor is really where we make the change” in people’s attitudes toward disc golf, he said.
The group decided to target the entire park master management plan, and not just the disc-golf decision, Glazner said, because in discussion with city staff it became clear that the latter was an administrative, not a legislative, action and thus not a separate resolution subject to referendum. The actual plan was adopted via City Council Resolution No. 94-08.
The group’s petition simply protests the adoption of the resolution. The goal is to force reconsideration of the plan, and particularly the disc-golf element.
“We didn’t want to do a recall or an initiative campaign,” Glazner said, explaining that both would require an expensive special election.
The only new member of the council, Jim Walker, has said he too would like the council to reconsider not only the disc-golf site, but also the rest of the management plan. As a park commissioner, Walker made the successful motion to recommend continued use of the site for disc golf, with strong mitigation measures and regular monitoring.
In all the fervor over disc golf, Walker said, the other 99 percent of the park got short shrift during the public discussion of the master management plan. (Of the 70 or so people who addressed the council, all but two spoke about disc golf.) “We [the commission] spent more than 30 hours looking at the park plan,” he said. “There are areas where it might have been tweaked for the better.”
Walker replaced Councilman Steve Bertagna, who voted for disc golf, so his presence on the council wouldn’t automatically change the vote balance. But with his deep experience on the issue, he may be able to persuade the council to reconsider, especially if it starts to look as if the petition gatherers are having a big signature harvest.