Whipple Beach development plans may not include disc golf
BAXTER — Rich in lakes. Paupers in public beaches.
A conundrum of the lakes area has long been the scarcity of public shoreland, specifically beaches. And that equation was on the minds of Baxter City Council members recently as they considered a proposal for a disc golf course at Whipple Beach Park.
“I’m really conflicted about this thing,” said Mayor Darrel Olson. “I have been since day one.”
The course, which uses a Frisbee-like disc, is proposed in the heavily wooded area to the north of the beach, which the city has designated for future development in its park plans. But council members, who recently discussed the proposal, weren’t sure the fit was right for disc golf — particularly for the land closest to Whipple Lake.
“The question is that the correct use for the long term for the greater public,” said Council member Todd Holman. The land in question is south of Clearwater Road and east of Oakwood Drive by Whipple Beach.
Holman said he’d rather see picnic tables and a park area for the third of the property closest to the water and fit the disc golf course in the remaining section if that were possible. Council member Rob Moser was also hesitant to tie up land closest to the lake.
“I, too, would rather see it to the south,” Moser said. “I think we should keep that westerly part of this park available for other items.”
Other suggestions of using the Northland Arboretum or Crow Wing County administered forest land near Whipple Beach for the disc golf course instead were declined by the Arb and the county. Holman said he was previously hopeful the best place for the course may be in the land in the county administered woods across from nearby Camp Vanasek.
Council member Jim Klein, who advocated for the disc golf course, was willing to go back to the county to see if the use may be reconsidered. Holman recommended city staff make some contacts with county counterparts to see if the idea may be revisited.
“I think we all agree it should be off the water,” Klein said, but he added there were dead trees that could be removed to make room for the course in the woods by the established Whipple Beach Park area. It was a way for young adults and others to be active, Klein said.
Olson noted the proposed plan and the fairways cover a large portion of the wooded area, dwarfing the beach.
“It’s a little overpowering,” Olson said, looking at the plan. “We actually need an expansion of our swimming beach and this thing is like taking over the world here. All of a sudden it’s like it’s a priority, which it’s not. It isn’t to me and it never will be. My priority has always been this beach and the park.”
Greg Fagereng, president of the Fly-By Disc Golf League, who submitted the plan for Hidden Greens Disc Golf Course to the city, previously stated in his the proposal the activity is popular, growing and would be a benefit to Baxter as an inexpensive outdoor activity.
Fagereng estimated a handful of large dead trees would need to be removed. He said low brush would also need to be removed from about 2.5 acres. Building a proposed course does come with costs of tree removal and brush clearing, signs and baskets as the golf holes for the discs. Fagereng reported the Lions Club donated money to purchase nine baskets for the course. He said much of the work to clear the course could be volunteer labor.
For the city, the proposal came with a question of whether it would trigger a need to expand the parking lot at a cost of $150,000 to $200,000. Fagereng said the plan to expand the parking lot has been considered previously and the disc course would not cause that itself. Fagereng estimated the course would attract a maximum of 15 cars at any given time. Fagereng said there are 180 courses in the state, but people are looking to play new and old courses. A course is expected at Central Lakes College. Fagereng listed courses in Ironton, Aitkin, Crosslake, Staples, Wadena and Pine River among lakes area cities that added courses in the last decade. But Fagereng said considering the state’s population, he doesn’t see a saturation issue for a very long time. Fagereng said the sport was introduced in 1974 and there are now more than 3,300 disc golf courses in the nation. Last year, he reported, Fly-By Disc Golf League members raised nearly $1,000 and got four local companies to sponsor baskets at Lum Park. Leagues start in May and continue through September. The city also heard there are those in the community looking for space for a dog park as well. “It’s not being utilized now,” Klein said of the land. “It’s never been utilized. The trees are dead in there. If it don’t work out, it don’t work out. What’s the big deal about going in there and pulling out nine baskets.”
The course could be dismantled if the city found the course didn’t work there or there are problems, Klein said.
“This is a resource for the whole city to be involved with,” Holman said, noting the suggested uses of disc golf and dog park. Holman suggested the topic of parks be put on the city’s town meeting this year. “Somehow there needs to be a way to involve more public thinking about that.”