Riverside trustees could vote again next month on whether to approve funding for a disc golf course in the wooded area of Indian Gardens south of Fairbank Road after they deadlocked 3-3 over doing so last week.
The vote at the Aug. 3 village board came as something of a surprise after a presentation about the proposal by Elizabeth Kos, chair of the Riverside Parks and Recreation Board, and some antagonistic public comments.
The meeting agenda listed the disc golf subject as an “update” with no supporting documents in the village board’s meeting packet and no indication that promising funding would be decided.
Its inclusion on the agenda resulted from about two weeks’ worth of sniping between residents over social media about the impact of such a course on the neighborhood, a misleading scare campaign implying the proposal put the future of the Scout Cabin in jeopardy, a recreation board meeting where opponents left frustrated by a lack of answers and the formation of a 26-person advisory committee charged with finding the best solution for a disc golf course.
In the days prior to the Aug. 3 meeting, the village issued a Q&A about the proposal, seeking to defuse some of the controversy and allay fears that a preliminary course layout given to neighborhood residents in late June was, in fact, the final layout.
Kos sought to further calm the waters during her presentation, stating that any disc golf hole structures would be removed seasonally and that the chain-draped poles could be coated in brown or green plastic to make them less visible and quieter when hit by discs.
She also stressed that the advisory committee, which met for the first time on July 26, was still studying exactly where hole locations go and that they were at least considering a suggestion to move the course farther east into the area closer to the ball field.
But, that didn’t assuage the plan’s opponents – six of whom spoke against the proposal at the meeting – citing ongoing concerns over potential conflicts with motorists and cars parked on Fairbank Road, the safety of children who visit the Scout Cabin during recreation department camps and other programs and that the activity is simply dangerous to those who may be walking in the areas while discs are flying.
Seven people spoke in favor of the disc golf proposal, discounting some of the safety concerns as overblown and expressing support for what they considered a family friendly activity in a beautiful setting.
“We can ‘what if’ ourselves to death,” said Kimber Coombes, who spoke in favor of the proposal and also called out one of the opponents, Paul Schmeling, who also addressed the village board.
Schmeling a few minutes earlier had been reprimanded by Village President Joseph Ballerine for posting the address of a trustee on a flyer asking neighbors to voice their opposition to the plan. Ballerine said it amounted to intimidation, which Schmeling denied, saying the flyer only “went out to three or four neighbors.”
Coombes characterized the flyer as “doxxing” Trustee Megan Claucherty, who was not present at the meeting because she was out of town with her family.
“Doxxing is a form of harassment, of intimidation and it comes from a place of malicious intent,” Coombes said, adding the village posts trustees’ emails on its website for those wanted to correspond with them.
The expense of installing nine disc golf holes will amount to between $10,000 and $12,000, Kos told elected officials. While that money is coming from taxes levied specifically for recreation purposes, the village board must authorize the expenditure.
Ballerine, seeking to throw his unequivocal support for the proposal behind the Riverside Parks and Recreation Board, sought a motion to authorize the expenditure.
The motion got yes votes from Ballerine and trustees Cristin Evans and Alex Gallegos. However, it failed to succeed as trustees Jill Mateo, Doug Pollock and Aberdeen Marsh-Ozga voted against it.
Authorizing the expenditure at that time would be putting the cart before the horse, Mateo said.
“One option before the [advisory] committee is not having a course, so until we hear what their recommendations are, I’m happy to come back in four weeks,” Mateo said.
Marsh-Ozga also felt it was too soon to authorize an expenditure for a project still being worked out.
“This process of being able to engage with one another in a civil manner and learn to see where each other’s concerns come from will lead to a better product, a better project, a better outcome,” she said.