Craig Robinson, left, with the city of Steamboat Springs, points out locations of disc golf holes Tuesday at Rita Valentine Park to Colorado Division of Wildlife manager Danielle Domson and aquatic biologist Bill Atkinson. Domson said she plans to write a letter to city officials stating her concerns about wildlife impacts relating to the disc golf course.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Craig Robinson, left, with the city of Steamboat Springs, points out locations of disc golf holes Tuesday at Rita Valentine Park to Colorado Division of Wildlife manager Danielle Domson and aquatic biologist Bill Atkinson. Domson said she plans to write a letter to city officials stating her concerns about wildlife impacts relating to the disc golf course.

Concerns remain about impacts, process behind disc golf course in Steamboat

DOW, Hermacinski concerned about Rita Valentine course

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Learn more about the Steamboat Area Disc Golf League online at http://steamboatdisc.com.

— Questions about the new disc golf course at Rita Valentine Park are starting to fly as fast as discs thrown across the open space site.

At this point, some answers are as uncertain as the resting place of discs lost in the tall grass.

Danielle Domson, a local district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said Wednesday that she plans to write a letter to the Steamboat Springs City Council expressing her concerns about the course’s potential impacts on riparian corridors and wildlife including moose, bears and deer. Also Wednesday, City Council President Cari Hermacinski said the course’s development without City Council knowledge, “not even in a staff report,” is “a breakdown in the process.”

Meanwhile, course designer Ron Pannesi, of the Steamboat Area Disc Golf League, said impacts of the Fox Creek Disc Golf Course are minimal and that the course has the blessing of nearby residents who attended public meetings of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and walked the course before its creation.

“We did go by the letter of the law; we did include everybody,” Pannesi said. “Every single meeting I attended with parks and rec, the largest single group attending was the Rita Valentine group — they came out in force.”

Rita Valentine Park, between Anglers Drive and Hilltop Parkway, long has been the subject of public debate about whether to preserve the land as open space or develop recreational uses in addition to existing walking and biking trails. The disc golf course is the latest controversial use and has spurred questions after opening, in unfinished form, to the public. The course crosses two adjoining parcels of land: the 40-acre Rita Valentine Park and the 35-acre parcel known as M & H. The entire site is commonly called Rita Valentine Park.

Domson walked the course Tuesday afternoon with Craig Robinson, the city’s open space supervisor, and Bill Atkinson, an aquatic biologist with the Colorado DOW.

“A good part of the course is right in a riparian drainage … it’s a pretty important migration corridor for wildlife through town,” Domson said. “We weren’t too pleased to see where they were laying tee boxes, right along the riparian corridor.”

Pannesi disputed that, saying the course is “only on the creekbed for a brief period of time,” primarily for the end of one hole and the start of another.

Much of the course skirts the edge of the park close to Fox Creek.

Domson acknowledged that the state DOW is an advisory agency with no regulatory authority, but, she said, “we can at least write a letter.” She hopes to submit the letter early next week.

“There’s going to be a lot of damage from people just treading through there,” Domson said. “It’s beautiful habitat in there, really good vegetation, and we don’t want to see it trampled by people walking all over the place.”

Public process

Hermacinski said Domson’s concerns and Pannesi’s responses are exactly the sort of discussion that should have occurred in a public City Council meeting before plans for the course moved forward.

The previous City Council voted, 7-0, on Aug. 4 to indefinitely postpone action on a conceptual design plan for future uses of Rita Valentine Park. That was the last City Council action related to use of the park.

The city’s Parks and Rec­reation Commission moved forward with development of the disc golf course this spring after public meetings, notification of nearby residents and a course walk-through. Chris Wilson, director of the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department, said that although the commission is an advisory body to the City Council, “operational uses” such as planting trees, building trails and developing disc golf courses are “all within the purview of the commission.” He said Pannesi’s work with the commission to move the course forward is a separate issue from the conceptual plan tabled last summer, and similar to other resident-led applications for use or implementation of recreational facilities.

Hermacinski disagreed.

“I don’t think that they should reverse a council decision that was made so recently in time, unanimously, without at least coming back and running it by the people elected to represent the community,” Hermacinski said. “I think that was a breakdown in the process.”

Hermacinski said given the sensitive nature of Rita Valen­tine Park, the disc golf course deserves a greater public hearing.

“I’m completely open to listening to the information on all sides of this issue — I think, procedurally, this should come back to City Council,” Hermacinski said. “Less than a year ago, we voted unanimously to go in one direction, and it seems to me that we’re going in completely another direction.”

Pannesi said the course’s development depends on the pace of fundraising. The disc golf league is requesting “18 lifetime hole sponsors” at a cost of $750 each, as part of a cost that could reach $10,000. Pannesi said Wednesday that money has been raised for about half the holes.

When funding is secured, he said, he’ll conduct a work day for improvements including fairways mowed by handheld weed-trimmers — mowers will not be used, he said, per an agreement with the Rita Valentine Coalition — and creation of natural paths between holes.

“None of the things we’ll be trimming out will be trees or bushes. … There will be nothing cut down whatsoever,” Pannesi said. “I’ve built numerous courses in a number of states. This is something that I’m very good at.”

Pannesi said he’s also working to revive a disc golf course at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. Both courses, he said, are part of efforts to provide a setting for a third annual Steamboat Open disc golf event.

Tuesday afternoon, disc golfer Zac Hale searched through tall grass at Rita Valentine, trying to find at least two flying discs that he and a friend had lost after errant throws.

“This could be something awesome, for sure. … It’s just hard to see it right now,” Hale said about the unfinished course, where thick brush creates Bermuda Triangles for discs. “I don’t think I’ll be coming back here anytime soon, unless it gets a little better.”

Comments

beentheredonethat 4 years ago

stupid idea to place anything in that area. idiots.

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exduffer 4 years ago

Scrap the couse, just build a community rec center instead with lots of landscaping and irrigation and lawn to mow and ooh and don't forget the parking, lots and lots of parking. Hey make it another transit center too, to get all those cars off the parkway. Oh did I mention the parking. And make sure to forget the bike racks, who bikes in this town anyway?

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exduffer 4 years ago

I forgot, don't forget the bathrooms but make sure you wait to get a GOCO grant for these wouldn't want the taxpayers to fund something that comes naturally for all those bears and moose. Ron's not going to cut the bushes so that should do for now.

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exduffer 4 years ago

Don't forget the artwork. Lots of really expensive sculptures too.

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stmbtgrl 4 years ago

I am happy Hermacinski is so concerned about a little disc golf course, It must be helping her ignore the fact that sweet pea is operating with out proper approvals! Is there even a building permit for their new kitchen and deck? doubt it! Where is your concern about that Cari? or is public safety not on your to-do list for the day? "a breakdown in the process" hummmm I think I know where the breakdown is.

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housepoor 4 years ago

Cari must have a friend who lives in the area that opposes it. This is just a bunch of greedy neighbors grasping for straws to justify their desire to have public open space all to themselves.

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stmbtgrl 4 years ago

Housepoor, I agree! Is this Steamboat or Cariville?

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Ron Pannesi 4 years ago

I am fully aware of the impacts of a course in the Rita Valentine Park. The impacts are minimal. It would be my guess that the DOW, City Council and the Neighborhood coalition have not looked at the 100+ Disc Golf Courses in the State to see what the after product is of a Disc Golf course. The Steamboat Ski Area Disc Golf courses have seen large amounts of wildlife traffic including: Moose, Mule Deer, Elk, Bear and Fox. There presence on courses have never been changed. On the contrary, they create the same type of viewing opportunity of wildlife that a mtn/hiking trail does. I invite any of the people involved to join me at any of the numerous courses in this state that exist on the Colorado River or the Eagle River or the Fraser River or the Animas River or the Platte River. There are courses in this state and lots of them are near and through a riparian corridor. These courses started being installed in 1976. Many of these courses have been in place for decades and the evidence of the low impact is waiting for anyone who simply doesn't understand the sport of Disc Golf. This issue is simply based on the uneducated. I offer a challenge to anyone who would like to see a disc golf course that has been in for 10+ years in an "environmentally sensitive area". I will drive and pay for the gas to take you to see what this sport is really about and how it is LOW IMPACT and does not harm the natural migration paths of indigenous animals. Educate yourself and get the FACTS. DISC GOLF IS EXTREMELY LOW IMPACT.

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stmbt80477 4 years ago

extremely low impact? who's picking up your beer bottles? we already have 2 disc golf courses in steamboat. let's spend our money improving them vs. taking away one of the few open area we have for the moose and deer that enjoy this access - their right of way, not ours. i am appalled that the city would allow craig robinson would tell the city council he has the dow's support when that clearly is not the case. where's the accountability?

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stmbt80477 4 years ago

oops, i used craig robinson's name when it was craig wilson who shammed our city counsel.

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rob liebman 4 years ago

I would like to put in my 2 cents. I'm a disc golfer and biologist, I teach biology in Estes Park. We have a course at the YMCA camp and as far as disrupting animal activity I have to respectfully disagree with the DOW. I have seen elk using the baskets as scratching posts many many times. There is bear scat all over the course, deer hanging out in the shade next to baskets, and mountain lion tracks as well. Its not at all like a ball golf course with sprinklers, mowing, and carts. It is people walking along paths between holes, enjoying nature and time spent with friends. The reason we live in Colorado, right? It sounds like the local club is funding the installation and there is virtually no expense once the course is established, what is there to argue about? It certainly has less impact than bike trails (concrete?), baseball fields, rec center etc. My son and I were very much looking forward to attending the 3rd Annual Steamboat Open, spending money on hotel, restaurants, and shops along with the other 100 or so players you would have had visit your great town. This is a bad decision! I hope the powers that be take a closer look at the reality of disc golf instead of wielding a heavy hand because they feel left out of "the process".

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exduffer 4 years ago

Better get a co-mingle recycling center there too, for all the beer cans and bottles, oh and the wayward discs.

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Scott Wedel 4 years ago

If this is such a wildlife preserve then there should be some consistency on protecting it so there should also be wide easements on nearby properties for wildlife paths. Nearby houses should have strict rules against exterior lighting and making sure neighbor's pets don't affect the wildlife (no outdoor cats or dogs) and so on.

I think this situation is a "be careful of what you are asking because you might get it" situation. The frisbee golf course is not having the biggest impact on the wildlife on this property.

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matt1colorado 4 years ago

“A good part of the course is right in a riparian drainage … it’s a pretty important migration corridor for wildlife through town,” Domson said. “We weren’t too pleased to see where they were laying tee boxes, right along the riparian corridor.”

A pretty important migration corridor through TOWN? So...wildlife and humans have been coexisting in Steamboat already? What did she have to say of the roads and the bridges that were layed along riparian corridors? This is such a petty subject to be debated. I'm an avid hiker, mountain biker and disc golfer and know for a fact that disc golf is one of the most non-intrusive activities that can coexist with open spaces or "riparian corridors". There will always be those that like to protest and block the activities of others, only because they are arrogant/ignorant of the activity itself. I applaud Ron P. for going through all of the proper channels and meetings to prepare this course. I for one will be out there this summer playing the loca ldisc golf courses and will play this particular parcel of land even before it is fully completed. I'll be sure to say "Hello" to everyone that I meet along the existing trails.

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alex johnson 4 years ago

Steamboat will always hold a special place in my heart as I lived and worked there from 97-03. When my Son was born though we moved down to the Denver area to be able to buy an affordable house and have more options of employment. Since that time I have travelled all over the US and our beautiful state playing professional disc golf as a hobby and nice way to vacation with my Wife and 2 children. I was up in Steamboat over 4th of July weekend staying at the Sheraton, and got up around 6am one morning to go over to Ruby Valentine and walk the course to take a look at the new course. Needless to say I was excited at the opportunity to play a game I love in a town I love. I had made it a point of vacationing in Steamboat for the tournament ever since the first one held on the mountain a few years back, but unfortunately those plans don't look like they will come to fruition this year. The work and dedication that Ron and other local disc club members provided to get the mtn. course set up and of a high caliber was tremendous and I know that this new course will be given the same level of respect. I truly hope that the city reconsider this option as I know that those who truly respect the game and the natural surroundings it is played upon would be a positive addition to the tourism of Steamboat Springs.

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Scott Osterhoudt 4 years ago

In the past 10 years I have lived in Florida, Georgia, and now Colorado. I have been involved in the disc golf scene in every state. I have noticed one solid truth in every state, disc golfers go the extra mile where other sports enthusiast do not. Disc golfers are notorious for picking up trash, chasing off the riff-raff in some instances, working with parks depts. to improve the land in anyway the dept. feel necessary, such as building new walkways, park benches, trail maps, and recycling initiatives. All with little or no money provided from parks depts or county governments. More often than not, money for projects come from fundraisers organized by disc golfers. As a whole disc golfers are one of the most self sufficient and self governed groups I have ever witnessed.

I always hear and read grumblings about beer bottles and plastic bottles, but the truth is there are bad apples in every group. Disc golfers in general educate the new players as they become part of the group, by posting course rules and guidelines and also by word of mouth. We educate them to respect the land, and leave the course better than they found it. That was the founding father of the sports #1 rule. You can hardly play a round of disc golf without hearing that phrase at least once. I cant think of any other sports that have such a guideline in place.

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jk 4 years ago

It seems to me that there were several pictures of moose taken over the 4th of July weekend strolling straight through the high school parking lot,as well a some heading up Burgess creek road.(Maybe the same pair?) Did these moose not get the memo from our esteemed City Council President that they must travel the "pristine" riparian area through Rita Valentine Park? This town is turning into one big joke and it's not disc golfers that are taking us there!! Pull your head out Cari and start involving yourself in some real issues around here!! Oh I forgot when real issues arise you vote both sides of the ballot!!!

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greenwash 4 years ago

Parks and Rec overstepped their authority.They work for us not the other way around.After 20 years Robinson and Wilson are so comfortable that they ignored CC.CLean house !!! Hire a 20 something out of college with a degree in Park & Rec Management for $30K a year. Does anyone realize what we pay these guys? Its outragous and a big waste of money.

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dave reynolds 4 years ago

jk..call the Rob and Cari show..see what she has to say on the AIR

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Ron Pannesi 4 years ago

stmbt80477 - The money for this is being raised by volunteers. There is NO Funding from the city. Also, there are not 2 courses in town. Beetles have killed the entire course on the mountain and the CMC course is the worst course I have played after hitting 271 courses in 25 states. So please allow us to decide what to do with the money we raise. Your information is as inaccurate as the spelling of the names you have chosen to drop. We have also cleaned up beer bottles, paint ball pellets and a slew of other trash that existed long before we got involved. The course is not even in and its already a cleaner park because disc golfers RESPECT the land and the others who use it. I can also state something else with no equivocation: A Disc Golf course will never intrude on the wildlife patterns like the development of a neighborhood. The lack of humility in some of these comments from the homeowners who dont know the facts is astounding. Are you aware of yourselves as you make these hate driven statements? The Steamboat Area Disc League has followed all steps placed in front of them to the exact letter. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE think and learn about the fastest growing sport in the world. BTW - no cutting, no fertilizers, and almost zero infrastructure is required to have a disc golf course. Can this be said of Sheraton Golf course which uses fertilizers and heavy machinery on BOTH sides of Fish Creek? Where was the riparian discussion when The Sheraton course was proposed?

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Ron Pannesi 4 years ago

Some more facts: -At the Disc Golf World Championship last year, the ages of players (competing) started at 6 yrs old and went to 77 yrs old. -8-12 million people have played disc golf. -500,000 people in the U.S. alone play regularly. -42,174 players in the Professional Disc Golf Association. -3082 courses in 13 countries. -42% of players have college degrees. -13% of players have Masters degrees or higher. -All this from a grass roots movement that is self regulated and run by a 100% volunteer group. THINK!!!

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Gregory Dalsis 4 years ago

Disc Golf is good. Good for me. Good for the kids. Affordable. Healthy. Fun. Low-impact (based on historical evidence of existing sites)(hard evidence)(not fears). We DO need a City Course. This is the Place, Rita Valentine Disc Golf Course.
Give us a year, let us show you our RESPECT.

SADL member '09 & '10 Steamboat Area Disc League

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