Ridgefield space eyed for disc golf course

City Council approves effort being led by local contractor at Abrams Park

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter



What is disc golf?

It is a flying-disc game that pits players against each other, or themselves, in a test of accuracy. Players flip discs — typically smaller than a full-sized Frisbee, although larger discs can be used — toward baskets nesting on poles. They’re draped by chains, which force the discs into the baskets below. The object is to make it through the course with the fewest throws.

The game dates back to the mid-20th Century. In the past decade, however, interest in the pastime has soared.

RIDGEFIELD — On a sunny Thursday afternoon, Abrams Park was practically empty.

Mike Nemeth, a Ridgefield contractor, raised his hands to the sides of his mouth and in a booming voice bellowed: "Is anybody out there?"

Predictably, his question was answered by silence. The park rarely bustles with activity, Nemeth said, despite the presence of a playground, a dog park, a soccer pitch and a baseball field. There are also trails and lawns at Ridgefield's largest park, stretching for 40 acres. But missing are the people.

Nemeth wants that to change. A member of Ridgefield's parks board, he has an idea: Bring disc golf to an undeveloped part of the park as a way of attracting more people to be out and be active.

"There's not a lot of recreation to do out here for teens," he said. "Activities are mainly geared toward 7-year-olds and younger."

On Thursday, the project received the backing of the Ridgefield City Council, which unanimously approved it. But there's plenty of work to do before it comes to fruition.

As planned, the nine-hole course would wind its way through a currently unkempt area of trails up a slight embankment. Blackberry brambles grow in hedgerows along — occasionally over — the trails that snake toward a private patch of land owned by Lloyd Stenersen, principal at Cascade West Development.

Stenersen has agreed to allow the city to use the land for part of the course. Nemeth said the agreement will allow the project to take shape in the best configuration possible and add another use to the park.

Some neighbors have grumbled about the idea but, from the perspective of project supporters such as Stenersen, it's better to put the land to use than let it go to pot. He can't develop on it because it's designated open space.

"It's really not being used for anything right now," Stenersen said.

Mayor Ron Onslow said developing a disc golf course would require a large-scale overhaul of the park, and he plans to tap the community to provide a little sweat equity. A work party is scheduled for Feb. 22 to clear trails and remove woody debris.

"To me, it would be a lot of work," Onslow said. "But it's no different than making trails."

The city will also apply for a grant through the Parks Foundation of Clark County to backfill the expected $7,000 cost of the project.

While Onslow and many other council members have told Nemeth they hadn't ever played disc golf, they've said they were interested in providing more outdoor activities within the city.

"I don't play disc golf myself," Onslow said. "But it seems like there are a variety of people who do play it. It seems like a family sport."

Flinging discs

It's evident that Nemeth is excited that a disc golf course will take shape practically in his backyard. He's been hooked on the sport since 2010, when he gave up competitive paintball for something a little less physical.

It didn't take him long to see the appeal of the game. In fact, it happened during his first outing.

"I got a hole in one," he said, beaming at the memory.

He plays a variety of nearby courses — Horning's Hideout and Trojan Park, both in Oregon — and usually takes his kids on his outings. His 8-year-old has also gotten a hole-in-one. He's a budding disc golfer in his own right.

"With disc golf, anyone can play it," Nemeth said.

But there are few suitable options in Southwest Washington for disc golf enthusiasts. That's what led him, and others, to bring the sport to Paradise Point State Park in La Center.

He's been trying to do the same thing at Abrams Park since October 2010. As that becomes a reality, Nemeth said he was confident the disc golf course would attract people far and wide.

"It will be the best nine-hole course in the Oregon and Southwest Washington," he said.