Disc golf enthusiasts hoping to play on an official course in Camarillo are going to have to wait.
Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District board members voted 5-0 at a Sept. 7 meeting to send plans for a course at Heritage Park back to the drawing board.
Instead, an ad hoc committee will consider safety concerns voiced by nearly 20 residents at the meeting. It will also consider whether any of the district’s other 27 parks could be a suitable location for a disc golf course.
“Tonight was democracy in action,” board Chair Bob Kelley said regarding the public’s participation.
Disc golf, which first gained popularity in the 1960s, saw growth during the pandemic.
Acting on requests for a permanent course, district staff, along with a planning committee made up of directors Bev Dransfeldt and Jordan Roberts, looked into the possibility, taking into account the size of parks, amenities and use. They also researched costs and liabilities associated with the sport.
The result was a plan that would call for the creation of a pilot nine-hole disc golf program at Heritage Park.
Of the 19 people who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, 17 opposed the course, mainly due to concerns that the discs could injure passersby, including the children on the park’s playgrounds.
One man who lives nearby said he would not feel comfortable allowing his grandchildren to play at the park.
“I have three grandsons, and if something like this would go through, I think that we would not have the freedom to use the park,” he said.
Other residents mentioned disruption to the surrounding homeowners, stating that discs can fly over fences and prompt players to trespass to retrieve them.
The two people who spoke in support of the course said that although every sport involves some risk, disc golf would ultimately benefit the Camarillo community.
“It’s a little upsetting because what we’re hearing tonight sounds nothing like what disc golf actually is. . . .” one man said. “I don’t want to downplay the risk—that could certainly happen—but I think you’re not giving enough credit to the players themselves to respect the park and respect their neighbors.”
A local member of the Conejo Disc Golf Club said he realizes that the proposed course has flaws and wishes neighbors were more involved in its design.
“I hear the neighbors. I respect their decision, and I completely understand, but we’ll never know the greatness that can come if we don’t try,” he said
Among other concerns, directors had questions about the planning process and public outreach.
Dylan Gunning, administrative analyst, said he anticipated more information would come from the pilot program. He suggested that the district could improve safety by carefully considering where to place the “holes,” rather than having players place nets wherever they want, which is what happens now.
“If we can control (the design), we might be able to mitigate some of the concerns that the public might have,” he said.
Another concern came from director Elaine Magner, who said it appeared that the number of people interested in disc golf was heavily outweighed by the number of people who had reached out to her with safety concerns.
“I’ve not missed a meeting in the 10 years or so that I’ve been here, and I don’t remember more than two or three people bringing (requests for a course) to the board,” she said.
Dransfeldt said the district should do more to ensure that affected residents are notified of potential projects in a timely manner.
“ Everyone seemed very shocked, and that should never happen,” she said.
Both board members and members of the public felt there was not enough outreach about the project.
Following the meeting, however, Gunning told the Acorn that the district has held public meetings since March.
“Safety is a priority of the district in all aspects of the many offerings we provide to our community,” he said.
“As presented during the multiple public meetings, staff presented the pros and cons of incorporating disc golf.”
During council discussion, the two members of the long-range planning committee said they would still like to explore a pilot program at one of the district’s other parks.
“From the overwhelming comments from the neighbors, I think that it’s pretty clear that Heritage Park isn’t particularly viable,” Roberts said.
Board members asked that consideration be given to larger community parks rather than smaller neighborhood parks like Heritage Park.
Still, not everyone was convinced a suitable site can be found.
Director Mark Malloy said the district’s lack of land—the city is 100 acres short of the number of acres per person that the city’s general plan calls for—makes developing a safe disc golf course challenging.
“I don’t see any park in our inventory that’s going to sustain this kind of activity,” he said.
This article was updated Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. to reflect that the district is 100 acres short of land.