Modest proposal

Over the weekend, I got a letter to the editor with a sentiment many people will appreciate. It starts off with a lament that disc golf has dominated public discourse lately, then apologizes for prolonging the discussion by mentioning it.

I understand. Of all the serious issues we’re facing, the one that has Chicoans mobilized and City Council members running all over town involves tossing pieces of plastic at metal posts. I’d venture to say that’s not even the most serious issue in the park—that place whose new master management plan may get thrown out like the baby with the bathwater.

So, I know that I risk adding fuel to the frenzy by continuing the conversation, and for that I apologize in advance to all those who see bigger problems in need of solving. But maybe these humble thoughts, distilled from conversations with an array of people over the past few weeks, can help speed us down the road to resolution, lest we need to take the road to referendum.

At the moment, city officials and the more conciliatory disc golfers are exploring alternate courses. More power to them; as with skate parks, Chico certainly can use more than one.

I’m not quite ready to give up on the Highway 32 locale … mainly because such a vocal contingent of disc golfers isn’t ready to, either, and I think there’s a compromise worth forging. It’s the one-course alternative, supported by Councilman Scott Gruendl.

Along with selecting a second site, the council should reconsider the scenic long course—which is lightly used and only by advanced players—with the following provisos:

• The city should award a disc-golf franchise to a nonprofit group.

• That nonprofit group should have a council-appointed oversight board (à la the park commission).

• The group would be responsible for maintenance and preservation as specified by its contract with the city.

• If the group is unable to uphold its end of the agreement, or if the site continues to degrade at an unacceptable rate, the city can suspend or cancel the disc-golf franchise.

Seems pretty straightforward, and it addresses two of the big sticking points: cost and follow-through.

I’d pose an additional suggestion, one I heard from Bob Speer (the Barber Neighborhood’s Bob Speer, not the CN&R’s Bob Speer):

• Give the site a chance for a “natural recharge” by closing it for the rainy months, when few people play there anyway. Speer suggested a May-through-November playing season—sounds like a good starting point for discussion.

I can hear the arguments, mainly because I’ve been hearing them. Foremost on the list: Why should we go to all this trouble? Because it’s obviously important to a good number of our neighbors, or the Restore Disc Golf folks wouldn’t be getting so many signatures.

Doesn’t this set a precedent? Yes … for disc golf at that site, under these conditions. “Grandfathering” is different than adding.

What about a precedent for hard development in Upper Park? Only if a future council really wants a project, in which case it can spin rhetoric however it pleases (even use Bidwell Park Golf Course and Hooker Oak Recreation Area as precedents).

I understand the preservationists’ passion. I also understand the players’ passion. I think there’s a way to channel both into a solution that works for everyone.