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Pines residents debate disc golf’s appeal, location

Course at Bainbridge Park a tryout for growing sport

There’s a project roiling some Worcester County residents over its location and notions that not enough has been done to bring to the table the people it will affect the most — the disc golf course at Bainbridge Park in

Hole 9 is one of a few disc course golf holes on the pond at Bainbridge Park in Ocean Pines. On Monday, people for and against the 10-hole course at the park debated its future. JACK CHAVEZ/BAYSIDE GAZETTE

Ocean Pines.

The Ocean Pines Association held a town hall Monday evening to allow supporters and opponents of the disc golf course to voice their opinion.

A panel consisting of Ocean Pines General Manager John Viola, Recreation and Parks Director Debbie Donahue, and Brian Dean, a representative from Eastbound Disc Golf, anchored the town hall.

Eastbound Disc Golf installed the 10-hole disc golf course earlier this month.

According to an OPA statement, the idea for the course came up when Donahue approached Dean to help plan an ultimate frisbee league as part of Ocean Pines’ Recreation and Parks programming.

The 90-minute town hall drew both supporters and opponents.

Some opponents brought up the playground at the park and how it appears that the disc golf course is taking precedence over plans to improve it.

“One of the reasons it’s taking a lot longer for the Bainbridge playground project to be completed is it’s going to be an inclusive playground,” Donahue said. “A lot of pieces have to come together to make it an ADA-compliant playground for everyone to be able to use.”

“I have to go through the design, figure out how much space I have. I have to go through all of the steps to be taken before I can determine how much it’s going to cost or how much time it’s going to take.”

Viola told residents that the disc golf course and playground project aren’t linear priorities in any way — and if they were, the playground would have the higher priority. The disc golf course is on a “trial basis”

“Let’s see what happens,” Viola said. “This is part of that process and to me, the process seems to be

From left, Ocean Pines Association General Manager John Viola, Eastbound Disc Golf representative Brian Dean and OPA Recreation and Parks Director Debbie Donahue anchor Monday’s town hall over the new disc golf course at Bainbridge Park.

working. If it came down to the playground equipment or this, it’d be the playground equipment. One wasn’t done because of the other or vice versa … at the end of the day hopefully, we have both of these (projects).”

Resident Nicolas Aquino called into question how quickly the course was put together.

“I’m questioning the transparency (of this project),” Aquino said. “I understand that many of these things need to be approved by the board. When I ask that question (when and why was the disc golf course built) the board also didn’t know anything about it … You cannot make this decision for our community.”

Others thought the idea wasn’t necessarily bad, but Bainbridge Park just isn’t the right spot.

“My concern is that Bainbridge Park … just doesn’t have the facilities you need to have a good course,” said resident Carol Pomeroy, who added she walks the park every day.

“I think there are better places in the Pines where a course can go, where there’s more room … If the park is being underutilized I think there are better things we can put in there for (residents) to enjoy it.”

She also added that discs flying at “60 to 70 miles per hour” are a safety hazard.

Dean responded to that assertion, saying that such speeds are commonplace for “long-distance shots” on much larger courses. However, the Bainbridge Park course is a short-distance course where the average throw would be 20 to 30 miles per hour.

Dean also claimed that Shoemaker Pond in Salisbury, which contains a nine-acre course, hasn’t seen a single “significant incident” of a disc striking a bystander.

Regardless, added Viola, Ocean Pines is covered when it comes to liability.

Other concerns dealt with the environmental impact of a disc golf course, which Dean said would be minimal.

“I walked the course with (former executive director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program Dave Wilson), and his conclusion at that time was that there is zero to no impact on the surrounding wetlands and the surrounding environment that would be a cause from this park,” Dean said.

The disc golf course does have its supporters in the community, especially parents who see an exciting opportunity to introduce their children to a new sport.

“I think there are plenty of people around the park who have young kids and this is an opportunity to give them another thing to try,” one resident said. “(And) there’s a big common sense factor with this. I’m not going to be out there aiming at anyone.”

Added resident Dave McGregor, “It’s something that complements the environment, it doesn’t harm it. The people who play it are very conscientious. I look forward to sharing this court with others and teaching my grandchildren.”

Board of Directors member Amy Peck also spoke up and compared the disc golf course to one she lived near in Baltimore County in similar circumstances — in a school zone and near wetlands.

“In 24 years there have been zero incidents,” Peck said. “In all those years I walked my dog there daily. A disc golf course attracts players who are environmentally conscious and like being outside. And there is an extreme etiquette … I think a lot of your concerns are not reality. I don’t think they’ll come to pass.”

“In trying economic times, this is something for families to do … The kids can get out there.”

This story appears in the print version of Bayside Gazette on May 26, 2022.