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April 29, 2009

Disc Golf Debate [126]

4/28/09 Disc golf, a harmless pastime or a public nuisance?  A debate has been raging in Burlington (pro and con) about a proposed 18-hole disc golf course at Leddy Park.

Eva travels to the Johnson State College disc golf course and proposed holes at Leddy Park to see what all the fuss is about.

Note: Read Shay Totten's Going in Circles about this debate:

Music: Syd, Upswing, "Easier on You"


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great video Eva.


Thanks for covering this issue. From the video it appears that you could use more insight into why people are opposed to disc golf in Leddy Park. I have lived on Fern Street which borders the park for the past year, and have been a Burlington resident for 16 years. I walk through the Leddy Park woods to the beach on a daily basis. Prior to that I lived in the South End of Burlington and have been traveling to Leddy Park many years. While I am now a direct neighbor of this park, I had just as much interest and concern for protection of this small slice of urban woodland while living elsewhere in Burlington. The people in opposition to disc golf in the woods have been characterized in your piece as just a group of neighbors near the park, and that is not true. This jewel of a park belongs to everyone in Burlington.

In making this decision about disc golf it is extremely important to consider how this area of the city has grown since Leddy Park was loosely classified as recreational space. I met a business owner in the North Avenue plaza who grew up on Gosse Court, the very street where the Miller Center is now. When she was raised on Gosse Court there were only two houses on the street and it was actually still a dirt road. All along that street were woods where she played. This is not a deceased ancestor. This is a woman still alive and working, so the changes to the New North End in terms of open space have happened in a very short time. Today the entire North End is similar to Gosse Court in that it is a rather monotonous collection of straight streets with little ranch houses built by the same developer. One house after another, one street after another. Now that children and adults no longer have pockets of forest next to their homes anywhere in this suburban stretch, the Leddy Park woods are absolutely invaluable. Leddy is very much woven into the fabric of this neighborhood and this city as a place of respite and enjoyment which is by no means unused. The land must be carefully considered in the context of what we have left for open space now as opposed to when the city first acquired the park.

This decision also requires the important definition of what constitutes "recreation". The woman on the working group who raised the issue of defining what recreation means was speaking to the real heart of this matter. There are already several forms of competitive sports going on in Leddy Park. These activities are done mainly by children and young men. There is also walking and other forms of exercise done on the wooded trails, along with learning, observing nature, and just plain decompressing that is made possible by access to these rare beautiful woods by the lake. These activities seem to be done mostly by mothers with young children and middle-age/older men and women. Elders tend to get their exercise by walking, and many express a deep enjoyment of walking in nature. I would hope that this form of recreation is not to be discounted by Parks and Rec. Are elders and others who don't do organized sports less entitled to use these woods for their form of recreation? When I walk in the woods I am "active". This IS recreational use of this park. Because an activity is not competitive does not mean that it should be labeled as "passive". Passive recreation is an outdated term for describing recreation and I believe activities should be defined as competitive or non-competitive.

While at the public meeting the other night, I was surrounded on all sides by proponents of disc golf. As the elder women spoke of birds, animals, quietude, these people sat snickering and making audible mocking comments. This repulsed me, and I couldn't help but think, "Is this the kind of person we want more of in the woods of Leddy Park???" Do I want to walk in the woods near people who make snide remarks about grandmothers who grew up with this park? Is this the kind of integrity that makes Burlington the caring city that it is?" Certainly not. I venture to guess it could have been the same people who stole all the yellow signs directing people to the meeting.

I myself am not a senior citizen, just someone who has not lost a connection with nature. I am raising two children and have spent much time with my family in Leddy Park. There is a palpable sense of wonder when we enter the woods from the neighborhood. My toddler always wants to get out of the stroller and discover a different world. He says with awe, "We're in the WOODS now!" And he asks about how the tree fell over, or why those mushrooms grow on the branches, or what was that bird saying?" How can it be described to people who see a forest as a place to be trampled for yet more organized sporting... how can it be described that it is of incredible value to be able to show our children a world other than a plastic sterile playground with uniform wood chips, noise and car exhaust in the air?

When my oldest son was small we lived in downtown Burlington and as a single parent I did not have a car. I used to take him on the bus out here to Leddy Park frequently to explore the woods and enjoy the beach. Not everyone in this town has cars as most of the disc golfers do. Not everyone in this city is able to take their children out of town to the country for a river swim, to the mountains for skiing, to Florida in winter for vacation. I think it's safe to say that most of the college students around Burlington and others who play disc golf have the ability to do those things. But Leddy Park belongs to ALL of the residents in this city. Leddy, in its present state is an invaluable piece of beauty for everyone, including those with no cars and little money to take their kids to experience nature outside of town. It's on a bus route. I used it all the time. My children benefitted immensely from these outings we called little vacations. Now I am lucky enough to live right next to this gem of a park which currently offers a perfect balance of recreation for those who like competitive organized sports, as well for those who like walking, observing wildlife, breathing fresh air, and swimming at an uncrowded beach.

Lastly, my biggest concern of all is one which no one has mentioned yet, and that is the beach itself. I go to Leddy Beach every single day during the warm months, whether it is on my morning walk, or to bring my kids for a swim. I choose to go to Leddy over other beaches precisely because of the character of this beach. It does not have large groups of people drinking alcohol, smoking, playing loud music, and making vociferous comments about women as they walk by. There are no lifeguards, no whistles blowing, and people are free to just have a calm day in a beautiful place. In short, Leddy Beach does not have these negative things which I'm certain would change if large groups were coming down to the beach after their games and tournaments. I go to Leddy Beach because it is an amazing, pristine, peaceful and safe place to enjoy the lake. Everyone is there because they truly appreciate the location and they want to be there, and not as a place to drink some beer and hang out with a crowd after a game. If disc golf were allowed into the woods, then this beloved beach would change drastically. People have talked of the pollution of the lake with the increased run-off of car oil in the parking lot. What about the immediate beach water? What would become of the clear water with a parking lot full of cars?

I am kept awake at night with the prospect of this unthinkable mistake happening to Leddy Beach and Park. I urge the decision-makers not to allow disc golf to go into Leddy Park and destroy the walking paths and beach which are absolute treasures to the residents of Burlington. I for one, would no longer take my two-year-old walking in the woods with metal discs flying. We would be unable to use that precious sanctuary that I have enjoyed for 16 years, and some seniors have cherished their whole lives. Having access to nature is every bit as important to a healthy city as adding another competitive sport for a relative few. I think that disc golf is a fine activity in an appropriate place. It should not under any circumstances, be located in Leddy Park.



ranter say what

Leddy Park Lover!


I was at the meeting Maeve is speaking about and the only time I heard laughter from the people there was when one older lady said that disc golf frisbees weigh 6 pounds each.

Let's be honest. That's funny.

But as to the walking trails and the beach at Leddy... The course that they want to install does not use or cross over ANY of the already existing paths, roads, or beach areas. None of it. Period.

Your complaint sounds to me more like you just don't want more people using YOUR park and YOUR beach. Maeve, the idea of a public park is for people to use it.

I hope this course gets approved.

Eva Sollberger


Thanks very much for your thoughts and points. I welcome you to share them with the rest of our readers by submitting a letter to the editor:

This issue is so complex and people on both sides are so emotionally invested that a 6 minute video does not seem capable of doing it justice - but I gave it my best shot.

Thanks again for your thoughts and hope you and your family enjoy the beach this summer.


Adam Quinn

I would like to address Maeve's comment.

Leddy Park is a perfect location based on the multitude of activities in the Park.

The New North End is very fortunate to have large and varied number of additional locations for many of yours and others activities. I also think the addition of Disc Golf in Leddy Park will not prevent any of the current activities in the park.

It seems lesser known parks like Arms Grant Park, which is less than a block away and provides for over 40 acres of "urban wild" forest and completely undisturbed trails, would make a great place to visit.

In addition, The Rock Point property, while private, has very open public accessibility. Ethan Allen. Starr Farm etc... The New North End has lots of close, easy places for all types of recreation.

I think it is important to look at Burlington as a whole. Disc golf fits in GREAT at Leddy Park because of many, many activities that are active recreation (soccer, tennis, softball etc...) that are provided at Leddy Park.

I also hope everyone will take a minute to gather more information. As the comment by Maeve is full of incorrect information. Most notably: "metal discs flying" is simply not true and has never been true.

More information can be found at:

Thank you and I hope as a community we can have a well informed, positive discussion about disc golf.


Thank you for your comment Eva. I hope we all enjoy the beach this summer, too. I would like to address Adam's comment, and then I'm done! If there is no metal in the discs I apologize, but I still don't want my toddler hit by one. My letter is certainly not "full of incorrect information" as you say. It is mostly my own experience and words of appreciation for this park which is very much used by Burlington in it's present state.

Your sentiment that since there are already other competitive sports in Leddy, so disc golf "fits in great" (even while ousting the balance of different types of recreation and the multigenerational use that now exists)... this is akin to saying there are already mostly whites (or any ethnic group) living in a neighborhood, so that neighborhood should keep to similar neighbors. Diversity, democracy, decency, all apply in a park as well as in the larger society. It's a microcosm.

As far as the course not crossing any walking paths, I wonder if you have been in these woods? They are not wide across at at all. And are all the players already experts? We are talking about flying discs which can go off course... and I do believe that I heard many people at the meeting talk of all the new players that will try this sport for the first time. I don't think everyone is an instant expert and the direction of the disc depends on nothing else but who throws it.


To clarify, the above is a reply to Adam's comment. Only the first two sentences are addressed to Eva. I love Stuck in Vermont!

Eva Sollberger

Maeve! Appreciate your clarification and support! Happy summer!

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