Commission questions idea of disc golf at Slater Park

Commission questions idea of disc golf at Slater Park

A man demonstrates how disc golf is played.
Members say they should have been consulted

PAWTUCKET - Members of the Pawtucket Parks and Recreation Commission are questioning why they were left out of discussions about building a disc golf course in Slater Park, saying they're not even sure such an amenity is a good idea.

If members had been involved, said Chairman Philip Shea III, they would have pointed out that there are plenty of other improvements that would be enjoyed by a "wider group" of people than a game with what appears to be a niche market.

Disc golf, according to its backers in Pawtucket, is played by an increasing number of people around the world. Like regular golf, the object of the game is to navigate a course in the fewest number of tries possible. Pros throw all sizes of disc, based on their distance and touch needs, toward each "hole," or chained basket. The person who completes the course in the fewest number of throws, like strokes in golf, wins.

According to Shea, a city official presented details on most of the items in the city's latest grant application at a meeting last November, but failed to mention the disc golf course. The Parks Commission hadn't received notification on any of the items to be applied for, he said, from $400,000 for a new and improved Festival Pier to another $400,000 toward an artificial surface on Max Read Field.

The disc golf course would account for just $20,000 of nearly $1 million in recreation grant requests from the city to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. That $20,000 would matched with another $20,000 in community development block grant funds, for a total of $40,000 to complete the project. Other projects would include $100,000 for a new pavilion and offices in Slater Park and $25,000 toward renovation of bathroom facilities at Veterans Memorial Park.

A simple conversation with the Parks Commission could have "brought up some other ideas" or "at least given us a heads up about the disc golf and allowed us to ask some questions that we were asked by residents," said Shea. "Us not having the answers or even the awareness damages the integrity of the Parks Commission and then in turn damages the integrity of the administration and City Council for appointing us to the Parks Commission."

A Jan. 14 letter from Shea to the City Council states that commission members "unanimously believe" that a disc golf course "is not necessarily the best use of the potential grant money awarded to the city for recreational facilities," and members "lament the fact that we were not consulted during the process."

City Councilor Terry Mercer, himself formerly of the Parks Commission, told members of Mayor Donald Grebien's administration last week that the commission "is correct in asking for a little more input." The commission is an advisory group full of members who can offer "wise counsel," said Mercer, and their exclusion leaves their roles as overseers of the city's parks, including Slater Park, "a little muddied."

Councilor Albert Vitali Jr. agreed, saying he understands why there's now confusion over what the role of the Parks Commission is. Vitali said he understands that officials are looking to do "progressive things in the park," and that's a good thing, but the people who serve on the Pawtucket Parks Commission are right to wonder why they're being left out of the process.

Public Works Director Lance Hill explained that officials are only at the stage of asking for a grant, "the due diligence phase," and have come up with no definitive plan for disc golf or any other amenities. Grebien's administration will "follow all the transparency steps that are required," said the public works director.

Hill said the criticism over the lack of communication was "well taken." He emphasized that a number of local residents have approached city officials about the idea of a disc golf course, and this was not an idea come up with by city officials alone.

The disc golf course would be a "free attraction," said Hill, who indicated there is no definite spot picked out yet for the course.

Councilor Mark Wildenhain, clearly one of several on the council who was doubtful of the popularity of disc golf locally, asked if the $20,000 in recreation grant funds would have to be spent on the disc golf course approved by resolution of the council last November.

Hill responded that there is a process in place that could allow officials to apply to use the funds for something else.

Councilor Thomas Hodge asked how much would go into creating a disc golf course, whether land would need to be re-graded and sand traps added as seen on a typical golf course.

Hill said the course would do little to change the landscape in Slater Park. The course would have to be mapped out and the chained baskets be installed and cemented, he said, but little else would change at Pawtucket's landmark recreation spot.


Here are some basic rules of disc golf from
Teeing Off - Play begins on each hole with each player throwing from within a designated area. This area is usually signified by a cement or rubber tee pad measuring approximately 5' by 12'. At least one foot must be in contact with the tee at the time of release.

You don't need disc golf to be teed off, if you are a taxpayer. The insanity of spending $40,000* for a few chained baskets on poles can only be matched by the recent $50,000 expenditure for a handful of metal 'art' trash barrels.

Not only should Members of the Pawtucket Parks and Recreation Commission have been consulted, but taxpayers. Whether the funds came out of the taxpayer's left pocket (property tax), right pocket (state tax), or wallet (federal), it's still our money.

*According to another Valley Breeze article, "... $20,000 for the development of a disc golf course in Slater Park. The $20,000 would be matched by another $20,000 in CDBG funds."

Am I correct in understanding this article? The Parks Commissioner is NOT in favor of broadening recreation opportunities in in a city such as Pawtucket, populated by such a diverse population if people? If such is the case, perhaps Mr. Shea is chairing the wrong commission; maybe he'd be better-suited

Heading a more rigid and structured group, like after school tutoring! The Commission may want to re-think their Chair .... Speaking of the Commission, this article quotes only Mr. Shea, and nothing from the other Commission members. It begs the Mr. Shea speaking for the other members with or without their opinion?
This article further confuses me. Is this about spending money or as Mr. Shea indicates, a recreational activity that appears to have a "niche market"? If it's about spending the taxpayers money, is he not as concerned about money allotted to other recreational activities such as baseball and soccer leagues? I'm interested to see what those numbers like and if he shares the same views on that spending. Maybe the Breeze could print those numbers for the concerned taxpayer?
If it's about the latter, then shame on Mr. Shea for such narrow- minded thinking, and shame on the Breeze for printing it!

Few, and a handful? Do you know that trash barrels are very useful while sports baskets chained to a tree are not useful. It is like you are inviting people to use your crazy tree baskets as trash barrels? I just don't get it(and I would play that disc-golf game)!

Yup yup, greatest sport ever, and 2nd fastest growing sport in the world. I used to play ball golf, now I will never go back. There is no comparable feeling of joy, satisfaction, exercise, and fun. Get it done.