Burlington's City Council is wading into dangerous territory tonight. No, not the activities of a waterfront manager, or election recounts, but the controversial topic of ... disc golf.
Both opponents and supporters have been emailing councilors en masse in recent days. And, it's expected that at least 50 people will speak out tonight during the public forum section of the Burlington City Council meeting.
For those who can't come to Contois, you can watch council proceedings live if you are a subscriber to BurlingtonTelecom. Tune into Channel 317.
Supporters of preserving the woods at Leddy Park have gathered about 600 petition signatures stating support for the park, according to one opponent of disc golf. He says the majority of those petitioners are ready to oppose a nine-hole course.
"After nine months of discussions about disc golf in Leddy Park, the process at this point in time needs to move in a different direction," said Mark Barlow, founder of LeddyPark.org. "The process now needs to turn toward finding alternative locations. We should find a locations that meet B'Towns original goal of having an 18-hole course, and locations that do not have the issues associated with Leddy Park. The City Council should take Leddy Park out of consideration so that the club can begin this new phase in the process."
But, Brendan Bush, president of the B'Town Disc Golf Group said Barlow's claim that the signatories to the LeddyPark.org petition are opposed to disc golf is "complete and utter bullshit."
"These people have signed on to 'make a difference by adding your name in support of woodland preservation and protection at Leddy Park,'" said Bush. "There is no reference whatsoever to a disc golf course. I am, in fact, in support of woodland preservation and protection at Leddy. I also firmly believe that a disc golf course would not interfere with this support."
Barlow isn't so sure.
"Anybody who knows the park also knows that this area still being considered for disc golf also happens to be one that contains the nicest stand of woods in the park. It's particularly beautiful quiet, and wild. Commissioner Ewing made a comment about the quality of the woods in this particular area during the last PRC meeting. If you are going to preserve and protect woodland areas in the park, the area in question would certainly be on or near the top of the list," said Barlow.
Councilor Ed Adrian (D-Ward 1) has authored a resolution that would put a disc golf course up for a citywide vote, while Councilor Russ Ellis (D-Ward 4) has authored a resolution to ban disc golf from Leddy Park — indefinitely.
For the record, both Mayor Bob Kiss and outgoing Parks & Rec Director Wayne Gross opposed the Leddy Park plan. At least one thing they agreed on.
In recent weeks, the Burlington Parks & Recreation Commission denied an 18-hole course for Leddy Park, but left open the door to creating a nine-hole course. That evaluation has just gotten underway, but could be short-circuited by the City Council.
Bush finds it ironic that disc-golf opponents who claimed they were shut out of the decision-making process a year ago now want to shut down the public process.
“We are confident that a nine-hole course will prove to be so popular among Burlington residents that we'll soon be discussing plans to expand the course,” said Bush. “We'd also like to reiterate our openness to work with park neighbors and other concerned citizens to make sure that our new proposal adequately addresses their concerns.”
Given the showdown tonight, methinks the opportunity to work together in a spirit of openness has pretty much been tossed to the wind.
Photo of disc golf course in Johnson by Eva Sollberger.