Eatontown officials approve disc golf at park over residents’ objections

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An outpouring of objections from residents rejecting a disc golf course at Leon Smock 80 Acre Park in Eatontown was not enough to sway a majority of Eatontown Borough Council members from approving a nine-hole course at the facility.

During a meeting at the municipal building on Feb. 27, residents who took issue with the planned amenity packed the meeting room.

A disc golf course at 80 Acre Park was listed as a resolution on the evening’s agenda. Residents opposed to the plan said they hoped to convince the council to reconsider approving an active use at what residents described as a bucolic park that is ideal for passive recreation.

In 2019, a proposed disc golf course at 80 Acre Park divided council members after residents publicly expressed displeasure with the creation of that amenity at the park.

Several council members eventually resigned as a result of what they said was incessant bickering and fighting among members of the borough’s governing body.

In 2019, the council approved the installation of a disc golf course at 80 Acre Park, but cancelled the plan after residents rallied in objection. Council members said the disc golf equipment, which had already been purchased, would be sold at auction.

Disc golf at 80 Acre Park resurfaced this year after five new members joined the council.

According to the new resolution, an 18-hole disc golf course was originally proposed. The borough administrator will explore an agreement with the Eatontown School District Board of Education to install nine holes of disc golf at a board property.

In 2019, the council never took formal action to change the plan for the installation of disc golf at an active recreation park other than 80 Acre Park and the council did not alter the designation of 80 Acre Park as an active recreation park, according to the resolution.

The resolution states that “the council believes it is in the best interest of Eatontown, its residents and taxpayers to ensure that the significant public funds authorized and expended by a prior Borough Council on disc golf are used to bolster the recreational activities available to the children and adults of the borough.”

On Feb. 27, dozens of residents said creating a disc golf course at 80 Acre Park would be a detriment to the environment and wildlife, and compromise the safety of park users.

Councilwoman Jasmine Story objected to the plan and told her fellow council members to  “listen to the people.”

“I strongly recommend you guys rethink” this plan, she said.

The conversation went on for three hours as residents held up signs that read “Vote No on Disc Golf at 80 Acres” and one sign which read “80 Acres R.I.P.”

Some residents asserted Eatontown could be liable if someone is injured while participating in the activity, in which players throw a disc into a basket on individual golf holes

Resident Allison E. Mitchell said a disc golf course at 80 Acre Park would disrupt what she described as a unique ecosystem at the park. Mitchell said the discs being thrown by players could unintentionally injure people and animals.

Al Baginsky, who served on the council in 2019, said there are several disc golf courses in the area. He said placing such a course at 80 Acre Park would be “detrimental to the forest.”

“Why are we pursuing this if the residents are so opposed to it?” one resident asked.

Resident Sara Breslow, who concluded her remarks by yelling “Power to the people,” said  “residents will suffer a loss” if disc golf is permitted at 80 Acre Park.

Dora Marcouiller said the animals who live in the park “have a right to life.” She said the wildlife “speaks a different language” and that residents should use their voices to speak up for the animals.

Some residents suggested that the disc golf equipment Eatontown officials purchased should be donated to another municipality.

Following what some officials said they considered to be verbal attacks from residents, Councilman Mark Regan Jr. said, “There is this awful outcry from people. I understand there are concerns about this … I think some of the reactions in this case have been unwarranted and just vicious.

“… Starting with the mall shenanigans … (the council) has been accused of scheming, lying to the public, harboring backroom deals and taking money. These horrible unfounded accusations are disgusting,” Regan said.

Some residents said they believed disc golf at the park could be a nice asset in the community.

Council members Kevin L. Gonzalez, Maria Grazia Escalante, Margaret Hope Corcoran and Joseph M. Olsavsky voted “yes” on a motion to include a nine-hole disc golf course at 80 Acre Park. Story voted “no” and Regan abstained.