BAXTER — A motion to approve a disc golf course at Whipple Beach was denied Tuesday as council members asked to wait until trees are cut for the forest management plan.
Council member Jim Klein’s motion to approve the disc golf course for four years and pursue it right after trees are cut at the site died for lack of a second.
Council member Mark Cross suggested directing the parks commission to look at the possibility of disc golf after logging is complete and come up with a plan that will work with a forest management plan. Cross also moved to have the new plan increase course buffers on the west and north.
The motion passed.
The latest course alignment the council was looking at Tuesday pushed the proposed disc course back 100 feet from Whipple Lake’s ordinary high water mark. Council members previously noted concerns of having the course too close to the lake.
With the course change, Klein said it won’t be seen from the lake and judging from this summer’s use, parking won’t be a problem in adding the course. Disc golf utilizes a Frisbee-like disc to play the course with baskets.
Costs and work with the course are expected with a wood-chip trail, garbage bins and course supervision. Course organizers said they have interested sponsors.
“We are for the sport. We’re just unsure of the location,” said council member Rob Moser. “I can appreciate everything these people have done to find a spot.”
Moser said he was still concerned with the distance to the lake and other uses the city wants to expand there, such as a picnic area.
Moser said he wasn’t against the disc golf course but said he’d feel better about the course if it could be smaller. He said it should perhaps wait until the forest management plan is completed this winter.
Klein said one of the reasons organizers like the Whipple Beach area is because of the trees. Moser said he visualizes the forest management plan as one that retains a lot of the trees but not some kind of clear cut.
“We have to move on this one way or another,” said Mayor Darrel Olson, adding the harvest plan is separate from the issue of the disc golf course.
Olson said there is a cost with the course and noted the parks commission’s recommendation for increased supervision. The city hears volunteers will come out of the woodwork for the course, Olson said, but they’ve “been down that road before.”
“To me there’s been two questions — does the city of baxter want disc golf and should it be at Whipple Beach?” Olson said. “To me they are two different questions. I’m still not sure it’s the place for that.”
Trevor Walter, public works director, said the DNR plan is cut one-third of the 11 acres. One spot, nearly all aspen, is planned for a what will likely amount to a clear-cut on the eastern half of the 11 acres. The plan is to leave the live oaks along with white and red pine. Dead standing trees will go for biomass.
At a recent Parks and Recreation Commission, Klein, who is the council’s liaison to the commission, asked if Department of Natural Resources Forester (DNR) Dean Makey could work with the disc golf club to save trees around the proposed course by Whipple Beach.
Community Development Director Bill Deblon said the timber harvest plan was based on forest management and comes with the help of the DNR. Deblon said many other sites were considered by the disc golf proponents, but none worked out and they came full circle back to Whipple Beach.
Last winter when the subject came up the council wasn’t sure Whipple Beach Park was the best site for a disc golf course. Proponents spoke of the growing interest in disc golf and the healthy positives of having more options to be active.
Greg Fagereng, Fly-By Disc Golf League president, previously reported there are more than 3,300 disc golf courses in the country and 180 in Minnesota. As the Baxter council looked at options, the disc golf course proponents were asked to see if the Northland Arboretum may be better suited to the course. But the Arb ultimately decided the course did not fit there.
At the city’s parks commission meeting in July, Fagereng said he hoped to have sponsors cover the costs. In a worst case scenario with no sponsors, he reported the cost to the city would be $1,023. Fagereng asked to be involved with the tree cutting.
The parks commission recommended approval to the city stating it comes with minimal cost, the addition of a walking trail, is family friendly and a popular sport and there is public support with increased supervision.
If the disc course doesn’t work, it can be reviewed and removed after three to four years, Klein said.
“It’s cheap. It’s easy to do. A lot of people are doing it,” Klein said of disc golf. He said sponsors were already willing to pay to advertise on the course baskets or boxes.
“Let’s give it a chance. There has been a lot of interest in it out there. These people have worked hard at it,” Klein said. “I think it really deserves a chance.”