by Susan Mason

Because Chico has been discussing significant budget shortfalls, we should also discuss the fiscal irresponsibility that’s being foisted on the citizens of Chico by the project proponents of two 18-hole disc golf courses in Upper Bidwell Park.

Several years ago, a small group of disc golfers decided they wanted to build their own courses on 40 acres of public property and proceeded to do so illegally without any environmental review or formal permission. Regrettably, the City subsequently agreed to allow them to play there pending the outcome of required environmental review.

First there were the initial environmental reports. Three versions filled with significant errors and omissions (e.g. there were no rare plants reported for the site and no impacts to the Humboldt Road and ancient oak trees were mentioned). How much did Chico spend for consultants to do the original surveys? How much was spent for staff time to write these reports?

Then there is the update to the Bidwell Park Master Management Plan (MMP), which has been dominated by disc golf discussions. How much have the disc golfers cost the City for their arborist report, botany surveys, wildlife surveys and their re-design of the courses to avoid rare plants? In addition to money given directly to the consultants to analyze the impacts of disc golf, how much money has been spent of City staff time for endless meetings revolving around disc golf? Now the City reports that there are so many comments regarding the deficiencies and inaccuracies in the Draft MMP and Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that they need even more money to proceed.

If the City officially approves disc golf at this location, what would the capital project costs be? How much to build a turn-out lane and/or a turn-in lane on Hwy 32 if required by Caltrans? How much will it cost to design and build the driveway and parking lot? How much to buy and install an access gate, 36 concrete pads and baskets, an unknown distance of rock lined trails, benches, trashcans and the bathrooms?

How much will it cost to provide mitigation for the significant impacts identified in the EIR? How much money for the “tree guards” to reduce damage to the blue oak trees? How much will cost to buy and install the still undetermined amount of mulch required to reduce soil compaction over the undetermined amount of acres? How much to monitor the area’s blue oaks and rare plants for ongoing damage?

What will be the ongoing cost to maintain the remote disc golf courses? How much staff time and expense will it cost to open and close the new gate twice daily, ranger patrols, service the portable toilets, empty the trashcans? Allowing disc golf courses to be built in Upper Park is not only significantly damaging the environment; it is also costing the taxpayers a fortune. The City needs to find an alternate site in Chico (perhaps in Middle Park) and build an accessible and sustainable, single 18-hole course suitable for everyone’s enjoyment.

Reprinted from Butte Environmental Council’s Fall 2007 Environmental News