By Naomi Klouda
Under new park rules passed by the Homer City Council, the city manager can set opening and closing hours for places like Jack Gist Park, where a problem has emerged over loud noises and late play at the park.
If summer hours are set at Jack Gist in the weeks ahead, located approximately two miles out East End Road, it is likely to be the first park where the closing times can be enforced by the Homer Police Department, netting a possible fine of $150 for violators.
It will take that and more to quiet down what was once a peaceful neighborhood, said property owner Kim Koppen. She gathered a petition of signatures from neighbors in the Bear Creek Heights subdivision to pass on to the city.
“Now when I pull into my driveway, I’m basically at the disc golf park,” she wrote in a letter. “I never know who or how many strangers are in my back yard. This City park runs the length of our back yard with no fence.”
Tony Arsenault, her husband, also complained of adverse lifestyle impacts. The couple owns five lots, pays city property taxes and argue that disc golf should be moved to a park where it won’t bother people.
“Karen Hornaday Park has plenty of room in the woods for the kids to party and throw Frisbees. Behind our home is not the spot for it,” Arsenault wrote in his letter.
City Manager Walt Wrede acted on the complaint by having the Director of Public Works Carey Meyer check on park boundaries. The game is played with a frisbee and has nine metal containers or “baskets” in the ground representing a course. He wanted to make sure the game is confined to the park boundaries.
“The City is receiving letters of concern about disc golf from some of the adjoining property owners. We have taken surveys and GPS locations and we know for sure that the baskets are all on park property and that the buffer is not violated,” Wrede said Friday. “However, the noise causes concern.”
The sound made when a frisbee hits the basket is part of the problem, Koppen said. The other part of the problem is that enthusiasts like to play in the middle of the night at times.
Edan Badajos, the president of the Moose Pretzel Disc Golf Club and a member of the Jack Gist Recreational Park Group, held a clinic from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday to show others how the game is played. Then at 1 p.m., they held a disc golf tournament. They also have held working groups the two previous weekends to clear dead brush and trash from the area.
“I haven’t seen anyone there later than softball, after 10 p.m. or maybe 11 at the latest,” he said.
A group of disc golf fans went before the Homer City Council in 2008 to ask for permission to use Gist Park for its purposes. It’s been a long while in the planning stages, Badajos notes. A user agreement was approved in May by the group.
“It’s been the plan that this (user agreement) would be a model for all the parks. They wanted to have a uniform system for how they make user agreements,” Badajos said. Badajos and volunteers gained local funding from businesses to purchase the nine metal basket, each costing $375, and set up posts to mark the pads where discs are thrown. Next they want to build an informational kiosk so people will know how the game is played.
Badajos said the only time the game might get noisy is when people are enthusiastic about winnings. The game itself is relatively quiet, just a ping when the disc hits the basket.
Koppen said she hasn’t had conversations with the disc golfers, and isn’t sure what to say to them. She is asking the city to consider her property rights.
“I feel like a prisoner in my own house. They started in with the weed whackers and I went into my house and turned on the radio to drown them out,” Koppen said. “I could hear them talking when they were done, it was very annoying. On one night, at about 8:30 p.m. they had a Bobcat out there.”
At the moment, Koppen feels like she has few options. She has spoken to the city council and she handed in the petition. Next she is setting up a video system in order to record and prove the problem. She has complained to the police as well, but they were unable to send an officer out because they were too busy, she said.
Badajos, speaking on behalf of his group of disc golfers, said he has been willing to talk with the neighborhood and meet them half way. But it is a city park, and therefore, available to the public for its sports. “We want to get along with the neighbors,” he said.
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