Gladstone to expand recreation

GLADSTONE — The city of Gladstone took steps Monday to increase opportunities for recreation in the city by moving toward the addition of a championship-level disc golf course and amending a controversial ordinance that limits where residents can park recreational vehicles.

The proposed disc golf course is a project for the Bay de Noc Flyers Disc Golf Club, which has been searching for an alternate location to play the game and to host tournaments to expand the sport. Club members invited 2010 Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) champion and professional course designer Eric McCabe, of Emporia, Kan., to visit the area and look at possible sites for a new course in Escanaba.

After showing McCabe a few potential spots for the course in Escanaba, the club decided to show him the old landfill area and bowl at the John and Melissa Besse Sports Park in Gladstone. When he saw the sports park, that was all McCabe needed to make a decision.

“He went up there and he was like, ‘that’s the spot.’ … Everything was set up, like the infrastructure is all there, it’s the perfect terrain, it’s underutilized land — I mean, he was really excited about it,” said Andy Hillman of the Bay de Noc Flyers.

After receiving a $7,500 grant for the Bay de Noc Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB), club members intend to contract with McCabe to design the disc golf section of the park. Under the preliminary plan, the course would have 54 baskets and be laid out in a way where players could choose a different configuration for each game. In total, players would have 108 potential holes across six courses. In addition, players would be able to play 27 hole games as opposed to the typical 18 if they so chose.

“We’re really just looking forward to making Gladstone a destination for people to come and play disc golf and make it not just a a disc golf course but a disc golf park,” said Rick Elrod of the Bay de Noc Flyers.

At the meeting, the disc golf club only wanted the commission’s blessing to pursue a design from McCabe for the site and some reassurance the commission would support the project after the design was completed, but commissioners were wary the disc golf courses could lead to unanticipated costs down the road.

“I’d like to see us support you on this, I’d let you go and do what you want to do, but if it comes down to where you’re going to come back and you’re gonna need some money? That’s where we’re going to have an issue,” said Commissioner Dave Phalen.

The club, however, has always intended to fund the creation of the disc golf park and to hold fundraisers as necessary to upkeep the facility once it is created.

“We’ve intended from day one fundraising every dollar for this disc golf course,” said Hillman.

Knowing there are no anticipated costs to the city for the facility, the commission voted to support the club in its endeavor.

The city’s recreation department, which is only days away from reaching its own fundraiser deadline for the non-motorized trail along little Bay de Noc towards Escanaba, will create a use contract for the club for its use of the park and establish an estimate of any legacy costs for which the club would be responsible. After the Flyers work with McCabe and a design is finalized, the plans and contracts will be brought before the commission for any revisions before any baskets are installed at the park.

Also during the meeting, the commission held a public hearing and voted to amend the city’s recreation vehicle parking ordinance. While most of the ordinance remains the same, the new language included allows homeowners with corner lots to have the avenue side of their property designated as a side yard and to use that portion of their property for vehicle storage. In addition, homeowners who live on a non-conforming corner lot — such as one where both sides of the property face streets — can request a waiver from the city to designate a portion of the property for RV storage.