Billings may indeed take a flier on constructing a new disc golf course at High Sierra Park in the Heights, but probably not during the upcoming fiscal year.
During Monday’s work session, the Billings City Council heard a presentation from Parks and Recreation Director Michael Whitaker and Planner Mark Jarvis on costs and challenges involved with constructing a new disc golf course at the site, which is on city-owned land south of the West Wicks Lane extension.
The two presented two options for the course, which is part of a June 2011 master plan update for the park written by students at Skyview High. One option, which would include park-type improvements on 12 to 20 acres of the 77-acre parcel, would cost between $1 million and $1.7 million. That option generated little enthusiasm among council members.
A plan to minimally improve the acreage, a plan that includes a 10-stall gravel parking lot, would cost $68,000-$75,000. The problem is that there’s currently only $3,000 in the fund to develop the park, money that came from a previous sale, Jarvis said.
Another complicating factor is that some people use part of the park illegally for off-road activities, including dirt biking. Signs that prohibit off-road use are routinely torn down within a week after they’re erected, Jarvis told the city council.
Parks and Recreation officials and council members said they worried that a new disc golf course might also be vandalized, although Jarvis said that as the new course gets used by disc golfers carrying cellphones in their pockets, “off-roading will dissipate. At the beginning there will be a tug-of-war over who gets to use the land.”
He said that fencing the course would be “a considerable expense,” perhaps $100,000 or more. The dog park nearby, about half the size of the proposed golf course, was fenced at cost for about $46,000, he said.
The dog park has not suffered vandalism, even though — or perhaps because — it receives up to 1,800 visits per day during the summer, just counting the human visitors, not their canine companions.
“That dog park is so popular. Families visit there day and night,” said Councilwoman Angela Cimmino, calling the proposed disc golf course “an amazing outdoor activity.”
She said she’s heard from business owners who might sponsor constructing one of the mesh baskets used as the holes for disc golf players. Each hole would cost about $3,500, according to a Parks and Recreation estimate.
Councilman Mike Yakawich encouraged Whitaker and Jarvis to “reach out to motorcyclists and include them” as plans proceed.
“How do we address that need?” he asked.
Well, City Administrator Tina Volek said, the city could “cede a certain part of the site to people who are joyriding, fence it off, and charge them to use it. You could make it a pay-to-play kind of place and use the revenue from that to do other work in that section of the park. It’s a possibility.”
In other business
- During an upcoming meeting the council will consider boosting fees at Mountview Cemetery by 5 percent. The increase, said Lee Stadtmiller, cemetery superintendent, will add about $5,000 annually to cemetery revenues, which were subsidized by about $181,000 from the general fund during the 2012-13 fiscal year. Fees were last increased, by 3 percent, in 2011. At $740 for a traditional grave, the higher cost would be in the mid-range for cemeteries around the state, he said.
- Ed Bartlett, who serves the city and Yellowstone County and the Billings Chamber of Commerce as a lobbyist at the state capitol, updated the newer city council members on the work he will do on Billings’ behalf when the Montana Legislature convenes on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. “He is our eyes and ears and our tongue,” said Mayor Tom Hanel. “He has saved us a tremendous amount of energy and effort as well as money for the taxpayers.” Volek said that Bartlett, an attorney who began his lobbying career in 1981, “ensures that some (bills) don’t get so far as to be a problem for us.”
- Earl Atwood and Luke Walawander of Beartooth Resource Conservation and Development Area Inc. described the services that the nonprofit agency provides for the five-county region it serves.