[Editor's Note: This is the third of several articles on the Grant County Commission work session and regular meeting on Nov. 16 and Nov. 18, 2021. This article begins with the update on the proposed disc golf course by Maude's Canyon.]
By Mary Alice Murphy
The first presentation of the Grant County Commission work session on Nov. 16, 2021, which covered the redistricting of the commission maps can be read at https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/68669-grant-county-commission-hears-first-of-five-presentations-at-work-session-111621-part-1. The following link covers the update on the Grant County Outdoor Recreation and Trails Master Plan: https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/68672-grant-county-commission-hears-second-of-five-presentations-at-work-session-111621-part-2
Kathy Whiteman, chair and associate professor at Western New Mexico University, as well as director of the Center for Sustainable Future and Outdoor Programs of the Department of Natural Sciences; Corrie Neighbors, who also teaches along with Whiteman in the Geographic Information Systems Science Program of the department and earth sciences programs; and Sabrina Summers, who is majoring in GIS, spoke during the presentation.
The presentation had the title of Community Disc Golf Course on State Trust Land at Maude's Canyon, which is east of 32nd Street. Whiteman said, as disc golf is gaining popularity nationwide, until recently there were no courses in Grant County. "The primary purpose of this project was to design a sustainable, low-cost disc golf course on state trust land. WNMU is now a lessee of the portion of state trust land that the golf course will sit on. There are already 60 disc golf courses in New Mexico and now Silver City is working on one, we are and one is planned at Fort Bayard soon."
She noted that the county has a problem with overweight people who could benefit from the disc golf course and outdoor recreation. "They would have a very low barrier to participate. It would cost maybe $10 for a Frisbee and the course would have low impact of use of the land. It aligns well with the governor's executive order setting the 30/30 plan [which aims to conserve 30 percent of all lands in the state by 2030 to allow more outdoor access and preserve natural resources, according to the comments in the Albuquerque Journal at https://www.abqjournal.com/2423229/new-mexico-sets-30x30-conservation-goal.html]. It also ties into the Outdoor Recreation and Trails Master Plan under development by the SE group for Grant County. It is also related to economic development and tourism."
Whiteman said they had a public hearing and heard concerns, took the input and put it into consideration for the plan. "We have been using the professional Disc Golf Association for advice. We want to create a course to facilitate tournaments."
The presentation was set to communicate what "we are and are not going to do," Whiteman said. She said comments include concerns about noise and light pollution, as well as the influx of people and traffic on 32nd Street.
She set forth the items included in the scope and those out of the scope.
In scope goals include sustainable trail infrastructure, installation of signage, as well as disc baskets and tee boxes, and a gravel entry road and parking area. Out of scope are a bathroom, a complete recreation facility, pavement, lights and watering lawn and landscapes.
"It will be basically acres of trails that may connect to other trails," Whiteman said.
Neighbors said it is a natural area, with multiple drainages, with the major drainage being ephemeral. She said the site is relatively open and flat on the eastern side of Maude's Canyon, with the west side being more hilly. Vegetation is a mix of native and non-native, with the uplands having grasses mixed with juniper and oak and the riparian areas containing mature cottonwoods, willows and deer grass. Sighted wildlife during their visits included ravens, deer, rabbit, plus scat that was likely coyote, and the possible habitat of javelina.
"We also need to consider the existing fence lines," Neighbors said.
Summers showed a draft map. She said as they were walking the site they came upon an unexpected fence line "that we are being respectful of. We are also avoiding the riparian areas, and we are staying 50 feet away from the drainage. We added a noise buffer for houses on the east side. We tried to find the safest crossing across the drainage. We are trying to be respectful of the cultural resources. We also put into the map some youth practice baskets. We tried to make the site the most sustainable possible."
District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce said one of his concerns was traffic and the parking area at Tu Casa. "It is a very important facility for the county. Have you talked to the people at Tu Casa? I'm not against disc golf, but we must try to respect the folks at Tu Casa."
Whiteman said the map makes it difficult to visualize the site. "We are not planning a huge parking lot. We are not anticipating a huge onslaught of traffic. That could change. We will have room for up to 20 cars in the parking lot. The exit off 32nd is past Tu Casa, and the course is buffered from Tu Casa by a hill."
Neighbors said: "We are very cognizant of Tu Casa. The terrain lends to their privacy. The baskets and tees are downslope from Tu Casa."
Whiteman said as soon as they have a better and final map, "we would like to sit down with Tu Casa. We want to respect their privacy. We are not putting any baskets along the fence."
District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards said she had heard Whiteman say a couple of times that the site might support tournaments, "but you don't expect a huge draw. I think 20 cars wouldn't be enough for tournaments. And you have not considered a trash bin or a bathroom."
Whiteman said Western has the lease and would be responsible for maintaining bathrooms. "We understand the concern. This is Phase 1, and until we know how much use the site will have, it's hard to warrant a bathroom. I don't see Western being able to pump a bathroom. My job would be finding the funding and getting collaboration. The initial thought is that it won't serve a lot of people, if the town were to host a tournament. There is no way to expand the parking lot. Maybe they could park at Ace and use a bus to get to the tournament. There might be a creative way. I'm at a loss for a creative way to have a bathroom."
Edwards said she appreciated the forward thinking. "I am highly concerned, however, about the lack of planning around a trash bin and a bathroom. People are going to be hydrating and they will need a facility."
Whiteman said trash is part of the plan. "We will ask for help through the Prospectors. If we get funding, it will allow us to put in a trash receptacle."
Summers said now that they had walked the perimeter, "we will submit a plan for construction by the YCC (Youth Conservation Corps). There is already a lot of trash and plastic on the site, as well as old fencing. We want it to be sustainable."
Whiteman said the state land trust knows about the fence and it is a cultural resource. There may also be an old ranching or farming building on the site. "The fence directs people away from the cultural resource. The state has made it clear we will have to fence the building off. If we need to, we can put our baskets on the east side. We hear your concerns about trash and a bathroom. We have more work to do."
She said future direction includes revising the basket and tee location following ground truthing, submitting the plan to the state for final approval, doing initial maintenance and seeking funding for construction supplies and using youth labor.
The next article will address a presentation by Air Methods.