Is this a fair way to treat disc golf?

CHATHAM –The meeting room of Town Hall was filled last Thursday with supporters of the Stonykill Disc Golf Course. They came because the Town Board had drafted a resolution to discuss at the regular board meeting withdrawing “all permission to allow the premises to be used by DisCap and… persons and entities for use as a Disc Golf Course, effective immediately.”

Stonykill is town property behind the Town Hall off of Route 295. DisCap is one of the groups that uses the site. It posts information on its website about disc golf courses and events around Capital Region.

Town Attorney Sal Ferlazzo explained that the Town Board had been asking organizations that use town land to sign agreements meant to protect the town from liability; the town also wants the groups to have their own insurance coverage.

Mr. Ferlazzo said he reached out to DisCap about two years ago with a request for a signed agreement which would have given the group responsibility for the course and insurance for any volunteers who maintain it. He said there was also an issue with equipment and mowing of the property, which is managed by volunteers and not the town Highway Department.

“We need to have either an… agreement or nothing,” he said at the April 19 meeting.

Kenji Cline, the president of DisCap, a non-profit which uses courses all around the region, said that his group does not have agreements with any of the other municipalities. And he said, “We don’t carry insurance.”

He also stressed that people can come and use the course anytime like they use any other town park. When there are disc golf tournaments, which DisCap does not host, the organizers of those events do have insurance, he said.

Eugene Gierka, who helped design the Chatham course, stressed that the land is “not our property” and that volunteers maintain the course.

Chatham resident Brandon Wall told the board that he is the person who mows the course and gave Mr. Ferlazzo his insurance information. Mr. Gierka said that he had emailed the town and Mr. Ferlazzo with several possible solutions to some of the town’s issues but he hadn’t heard back. Mr. Ferlazzo said he would get back to him next week.

Town Supervisor Maria Lull said, “The Town Board finds that course a wonderful resource” for the town, but she added that the board did not have the personnel in the Highway Department to maintain it. When the course was proposed to the board several years ago, she said, it was supposed to be at no cost to the town.

Several town residents, along with people who came from Albany and Troy, said they use the course. Many said they were not affiliated with DisCap. One young resident of the Village of Chatham said she and her family use the nature trails at the Stonykill site, while others talked about enjoying disc golf and how it gets people outside.

A few people mentioned how the course has brought people to the community to shop and dine. “They come to your town and spend money because you have a great course,” said one supporter.

According to the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) website, “disc golf is played much like traditional golf. Instead of a ball and clubs, however, players use a flying disc or Frisbee.” There are targets or “holes” which are metal baskets around the course.

There are other courses in the Capital Region and in Vermont, but Stonykill is the only one in Columbia County.

“It would be a shame to lose this,” said Shari Franks the former town rec director, who worked with DisCap to start the course. She said she didn’t understand why using the land by the Town Hall couldn’t be like using the Town Park at Crellin, where there are basketball courts open for public use and a skate board park and a trail.

Mr. Ferlazzo said that the town has asked all organizations, including groups like the Garden Club, the Reds baseball team and the soccer programs that use Crellin fields, to sign agreements with the board and get insurance.

Mr. Cline, the DisCap president, did say there is a volunteer organizer who would work with the town. Mr. Ferlazzo said that his major issues are insurance for volunteers, especially anyone using the mowers and chainsaws on the property, and the use of alcohol at the site. There was also talk about the land only being open from dawn to dusk. Residents suggested that signs be posted with town park rules at Stonykill.

“Create the rules,” Mr. Cline said to the Town Board.

The board did not act on motion to close the course.

Later in the meeting Councilman Bob Balcom said that the disc golf users in the town needed to “form a club.” He suggested that if they formed a group or club, the town could interact with that organization. “A lot of what’s happening here is miscommunication,” he said.

Councilman John Wapner said the town’s Recreation and Parks Commission had had a long talk about the disc golf course at the commission’s last meeting. He said the commission supports the course but agreed it was a thorny issue and that maybe the newly formed volunteer group, the Chatham Area Recreation Project (CARP) could help the local disc golfers, since CARP’s goal is to help recreational programs in the town.

The next Town Board meeting will be May 17 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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