Posted by Greg Ellison
(July 15, 2021) Discgolf will get a trial run next month at Stephen Decatur Park after the Berlin city council voted 3-1 on Monday that three events could take place on an 18-hole course on the premises.
Local disc golf pros Austin Widdowson and Shawn Johnson, both members of Eastbound Disc Golf, presented their plans to the mayor and city council, saying the park was big enough to take on two courses, one for beginners and one for advanced players.
Councilor Jay Knerr voted against the measure while Councilor Dean Burrell was absent.
“We are trying to make a name for ourselves for disc golf in Berlin,” he said.
At the beginning of May, the duo examined the proposal with the Berlin Parking Commission, which approved the concept despite some reservations.
Maintenance, safety concerns for park guests and interference with private property were mentioned by the parking commission.
Johnson, who grew up in Snow Hill and returned to the area last fall, helped set up a disc golf club at Children’s Farm Park in Millersville, a 288-acre site operated by Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks .
“You can enjoy this sport with a disc or two,” he said. “It’s not about start times, it’s about availability.”
Regarding potential injuries to other park users struck by flying glass, Widdowson said the chances of being struck by lightning are better.
“In all the years I’ve played, I’ve never seen anyone hit by a frisbee,” he said. “It’s very far away and you’re throwing into the field.”
The intent is to coexist peacefully with the larger community and minimize the impact.
“We are trained to be polite to others,” he said. “If there are blind spots, we have signs.”
Widdowson said the project organizers hope to act as ambassadors for the park and help clear the overgrowth.
“There are vines over there raiding the trees,” he said. “We want to leave it behind better than we found it.”
Widdowson said all course equipment purchases were funded with grants and donations.
“We want to donate 100 percent of all hardware and equipment,” he said. “The city does not incur any costs.”
Johnson said disc golf organizers plan to hold test runs on the premises, including three events on August 1st, 10th and 22nd.
“After these events we will meet with the core group and the membership base and come up with a final layout,” he said.
Mayor Zach Tyndall asked if permission would be requested for the larger project or just a pilot phase in August.
“At the moment we want general approval, but we want to see how we can implement it,” he said.
City Administrator Jeff Fleetwood highlighted safety issues related to disc golf courses.
“Parks are closed at dusk, but children can stay,” he said. “I am concerned about the moving parts from a risk perspective.”
Based on background research, Fleetwood said there is the potential for young children to be strangled if they become entangled in chain link baskets.
Tyndall admitted that there were certain risks associated with disc golf, but noted that other park equipment could pose hazards as well.
Johnson also questioned liability issues related to disc golf courses.
“I am personally not aware of any incidents,” he said.
Fleetwood asked about the insurance requirements.
“Who’s taking the risk?” He said.
Johnson said the responsibility rests with the community.
“Ultimately, we want to donate this course to the city, so I think the city would,” he said.
Tyndall said the long-term plans for the course installation may need to be delayed a bit.
“It sounds like we have some risk profile questions that we should find out on our side,” he said.
Hoping to confirm insurance needs before a course is set up, Tyndall suggested allowing Eastbound Disc Golf promoters to hold three events over the next month and then re-call discussions afterwards.
“By this point we should have figured out the risk issues and maybe we can reach a long-term plan,” he said.
The council decided to apply for three dates for city events in August and at the same time to confirm liability insurance.
Tyndall said the upcoming disc golf gatherings would give elected officials and staff an opportunity to watch the sport up close.
“We get to see this in action,” he said.
Tyndall suggested that Widdowson and Johnson appear before the council on Aug. 23 to decide what happens next.
Councilor Troy Purnell said a firm decision would likely be made at this point.
“When you’re done with this, we’ll know whether we like it or not,” he said.