With a shotgun start and Queen’s “We are the Champions” playing, disc golfers dispersed for 18 rounds of disc golf at Kimball Pines Park on Thursday.
The players took aim at 18 baskets, each seeking to rattle chains with an “ace” at the newly expanded course.
Largely destroyed by a 2011 straight-line wind storm, the disc golf course at Kimball Pines has returned to some of its former glory thanks to volunteer efforts and funding through a 2020 parks millage.
“The county didn’t have the funds to take care of the park, so tons of blood, sweat and tears have been put in with work through volunteers,” said Kevin Baldwin, a disc golfer who runs the league. “It’s really good the community came together and passed the millage and got the funding for it. You can come out here and see the difference. This park has really grown a lot and we’re looking forward to more growth.”
The 117-acre park at 1158 East Michigan Ave. in Emmett Township sits tucked behind the Calhoun County Medical Care Facility, without an entrance of its own.
As part of a five-year millage passed in 2020 by 61% of voters − with additional funding through a Michigan Department of Natural Resources grant, a new entrance is being constructed at Kimball Pines. Also planned are restroom remodeling, a new pavilion and grills, improved parking and new pathway up to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The millage will generate approximately $730,000 per year to operate, preserve, acquire, maintain and develop Calhoun County’s parks. Each year, 50% of the millage revenue is available to Calhoun County municipalities for local park projects, with allocations based on population size.
“We’ve had volunteer crews at Kimball Pines for years working on the back nine,” Calhoun County Parks Director Doug Farrell said. “The front nine was opened back up four years ago and the back nine, every year opening it up a little more, cutting in the holes. This summer is when the baskets went in.
“For me this is phase one. I encourage people to get out and use it, walk, go on the Calhoun County trail, use the restrooms, but also know it’s also just the first part.”
In the 1930s and 1940s, 100 acres of plantation pines were planted at the location. Formerly the Kimball Sanitarium, it was purchased in the 1960s and became part of the Calhoun County park system, opening in 1975.
The park also contains deciduous woodlands, ponds, and a creek which is a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. The North Country Trail, the nation’s longest trail spanning eight northern states, runs concurrently with the Calhoun County Trail through Kimball Pines.
An 18-hole disc golf course opened at Kimball Pines in 2004, one of the first in the Battle Creek area. The course was one of the host sites for the 2008 World Disc Golf Championships. Three years later, it was destroyed by a straight-line wind storm which saw winds reach speeds of 100 mph, causing about $20 million in damages to 900 buildings across the region.
Through a joint effort between city parks staff and volunteers from the local disc golf community, the front nine of the Kimball Pines disc golf course was restored in 2015, with work clearing the back nine beginning in 2019.
“There’s a lot of pine trees and it was a gigantic game of pick-up-sticks after that from the tornado or straight-line winds,” Baldwin said. “It’s been a good change since we got the extra nine (back). To get a good feel of what Kimball Pines used to be like, we tried to leave the pin placement around the same place for the players who used to play out here. Some haven’t played since the tornado. It’s good to get the full 18 in and it’s more inviting than a nine-hole course.”
Contact reporter Nick Buckley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter:@NickJBuckley
BATTLE CREEK AREA DISC GOLF COURSES
∙ Begg Park (18 holes): 53 Military St., Springfield
∙ Cold Brook Park (24 holes, $5 daily pass): 14467 E MN Ave., Climax
∙ Custer Greens (18 holes, $3 green fee): 5500 Armstrong Rd, Battle Creek
∙ Dexter Lake Church (9 holes): 1541 Michigan Ave, Battle Creek
∙ Irving Park (27 holes): 311 E. Avenue N., Battle Creek
∙ Kimball Pines Park (18 holes): 1158 E. Michigan Ave., Emmett Township
∙ Leila Arboretum (18 holes): 928 W. Michigan Ave., Battle Creek
∙ Territorial Brewing Co. (18): 1600 Avenue A, Springfield