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Mohegan Park committee to pitch disc golf course Monday to Norwich City Council

November 18, 2018

Norwich — A proposal to create a disc golf course in the section of Mohegan Park where the failed Chelsea Gardens botanical gardens project had been proposed will be presented Monday to the City Council.

It already has been met with objections by neighbors who led the fight to kill the botanical gardens project.

The Mohegan Park Improvements and Development Advisory Committee has endorsed the plan to set up a nine-hole disc, or Frisbee, golf course, with baskets anchored to the ground as the holes for players to toss discs into and small marked spots as tee-off points.

Committee member Kyle Seitz will give a 15-minute presentation to the City Council on Monday during a 7 p.m. informational meeting for the advisory committee to update the council on its activities.

The committee voted at its September meeting to recommend the Wilderness Road area where the now-defunct Chelsea Gardens Foundation had planned to locate a multimillion-dollar botanical garden. That plan ended amid a flurry of opposition by neighbors who rallied public outcry to the foundation’s move to clear-cut six acres of trees without funding in hand to begin the project.

Several of those opponents spoke against the proposed disc golf course at the Nov. 8 Mohegan Park advisory committee meeting.

Charles Evans of Butternut Road, whose property abuts the area of Mohegan Park proposed for the disc golf course, said the course would change the character of the park and asked why the committee was pursuing the proposal without a comprehensive plan, according to the minutes of the Nov. 8 meeting. Evans led the vocal and legal opposition to the Chelsea Gardens project.

Judith Brown, also of Butternut Drive, told the committee she was concerned about parking in the Wilderness Road area, where currently there is no formal off-street parking. She asked for a survey to be done about the project and expressed concern about the condition of shrubs in the former Chelsea Gardens area.

And Roberta Clapper of Butternut Drive said the area has rocks and stumps from the trees cut by Chelsea Gardens, which would be safety hazards to players.

Jon Oldfield of Lawler Lane objected to potential costs to the city and said active recreation development there would be contrary to the original intent of the land donors, who wanted it kept as open space.

Mohegan Park committee Chairwoman Beryl Fishbone said the committee will report to the council what it has researched thus far about disc golf. She said there appears to be a misconception that it would involve creating a course with a lawn and cleared trees. Instead, she said it would have “light traffic” through the natural landscape with anchored baskets and tee-off spots.

“We think it might be a good fit,” Fishbone said. “It’s good for us environmentally, which is one of our biggest concerns.”

Fishbone said the nearest courses to Norwich are in Lisbon and East Haddam, which has a bigger, 18-hole course.

Alderman Samuel Browning, also a member of the Mohegan Park committee, said the project could cost about $20,000, with half to be raised in a crowdfunding effort and sponsorships and half from the Mohegan Park’s development fund, money reserved for Mohegan Park, with approval from the City Council.

A subcommittee of the Mohegan Park advisory committee might be needed to oversee the fundraising, with the money to be handled by the city finance department, Browning said.

Committee members said disc golf would be passive recreation in the park, with players walking along trails and throwing discs toward the baskets, which would not be attached to trees but anchored to the ground.

Seitz, who first brought the proposal to the committee several months ago, said the plan is in the initial stages, and the course not yet designed. He said disc golf in Mohegan Park would fit the advisory committee’s role of attracting more people to the park, and with that, he said, it could reduce vandalism and undesirable activities.

“Now we’re inviting purposeful people to the park to use it,” Seitz said, “and we hope to keep the negative people out.”

Committee members said they understood the opponents’ concerns but said there is some misinformation that the disc golf course would involve clear-cutting and major construction.

“I just ask the people of Norwich to keep an open mind for the presentation and not to prejudge this based on the whole Chelsea Gardens clear-cut debacle,” Browning said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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