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Old 11-17-2016, 01:55 PM
Gblambert Gblambert is offline
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Default What is the environmental impact of disc golf courses ?

Three years ago we started work on our two private disc golf courses and finished the last hole earlier this year. We live on top of an aquifer that supplies water to a number of large cities, so our land sits in the middle of a very environmentally sensitive area. Needless to say, we try and take care of the land and be good neighbors as best we can. During these three years though, I've seen the land change dramatically and the resulting impact on the native vegetation and wildlife. The changes have been good in some cases and in others, not so much. We mitigate the negative impacts where we can. These are my observations and I'm wondering if others have had noticed similar things on their courses.

The Bad

Loss of wildlife - we used to see lots of rabbits, mice, deer, and two pair of roadrunners used to inhabit our property. As our disc golf traffic has increased, or wildlife population has decreased dramatically. I think the critters are still in the area, they just moved to my neighbors next door. We also left the areas next to fairways rough, so there seems to be more birds and other wildlife in those areas.

Loss of vegetation - we selectively cleared our fairways with chainsaws (no heavy machinery) and only removed nuisance vegetation like cactus, junipers, and scrub. Still, this left our newly cleared fairways open to ...

Soil erosion - we've had a couple of severe storms in the last couple of years that removed a couple of inches of soil from the fairways with elevation, leaving freshly exposed rocks in its place. We clear the rocks, but a new batch appears after the next rain.

Water runoff - half of the course meanders through a dry creek bed that was full of brush and dead vegetation. This caused water backups, with a lot of water soaking into the aquifer. A lot of this was cleared to make fairways, so water now flows quickly off the property. Not sure what we can do about this, other than creating a few permanent dams to hold the water longer.

Soil compaction - we are lucky to have lots of mature live oak trees on the property and many of these are located at tee pad and basket locations where the soil gets really compacted. Mulching these areas seems to help.

Tree damage - trees close to tee pads have begun to take hits and show damage. We're planning to install sleeves around the trunks of the most affected trees soon.

The Good

Grass and wildflowers - as we cleared fairways we were pleasantly surprised to see how quickly grass and wildflowers took over. And the more rocks we cleared from the fairways, the thicker the grass and wildflowers grew. Erosion is much less of a problem now.

The live oaks - the oaks are the jewel of the property and the more scrub brush and junipers we removed from beneath them, the more vines we removed from their canopies, and the more mulch we spread below them, the more they thrived.

Additional plantings - we've just started, but plan to add more native trees and shrubs with minimal water requirements throughout the course in the years to come.

Water - we haven't dug a water well yet, instead collecting water off the roofs of our buildings. We're also not connected to a city sewer system and don't have a septic system yet, so we rely on porta potties.
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Old 11-17-2016, 02:27 PM
SonicGuy SonicGuy is online now
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Originally Posted by Gblambert View Post

The live oaks - the oaks are the jewel of the property and the more scrub brush and junipers we removed from beneath them, the more vines we removed from their canopies, and the more mulch we spread below them, the more they thrived.
This is interesting. Working with parks departments they are always concerned about the health of their tree stock. Usually the concerns are about hurting mature trees with disc impact and soil compaction around roots. Would you estimate that your positive results will overpower the negatives of disc impact and soil compaction?
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Old 11-17-2016, 09:17 PM
Gblambert Gblambert is offline
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This is interesting. Working with parks departments they are always concerned about the health of their tree stock. Usually the concerns are about hurting mature trees with disc impact and soil compaction around roots. Would you estimate that your positive results will overpower the negatives of disc impact and soil compaction?
We spent a lot of time on each oak; clearing vegetation underneath so they no longer have to compete for water, pruning the dead and low hanging branches, and spreading mulch underneath to prevent soil compaction. In the last couple of years the trees have thrived, growing at a healthy pace and showing no signs of stress or disease. Not sure if this is the result of our tinkering or the better than average rainfall we've experienced the last couple of years. In any case, the trees have never looked better.
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Old 11-18-2016, 11:23 AM
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sjberry2017 sjberry2017 is offline
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Grass and wildflowers - as we cleared fairways we were pleasantly surprised to see how quickly grass and wildflowers took over. And the more rocks we cleared from the fairways, the thicker the grass and wildflowers grew. Erosion is much less of a problem now.
I was actually going to ask if you had tried planting grass/sod in the fairways to minimize the erosion; it sounds like nature took care of it by itself How much erosion would you say still takes place where the grass/wildflowers are compared to the bare fairways?
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Old 11-18-2016, 01:33 PM
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KniceZ KniceZ is offline
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We've all seen how courses can have significant impact especially around tee-pads and baskets and damage to certain tree species. It's hard to tell from the OP whether overall you consider the course to have negative impact given all your trying to do to mitigate the negative aspects.

Before everyone jumps - of course there's going to be some impact. I'm talking about relative impact compared to other potential uses for a park such as hiking/biking trails, ball golf courses, sports fields, playgrounds, etc.
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Old 11-19-2016, 01:16 AM
Gblambert Gblambert is offline
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I How much erosion would you say still takes place where the grass/wildflowers are compared to the bare fairways?
Grass and weeds slowly began taking over the fairways on level ground as soon as they were cleared. Frequent mowings and good rainfall helped thicken them up. Many of the weeds turned out to be wildflowers which were left unmowed until after they went to seed in early summer. In the late fall, the weeds are also allowed to go to seed before the final mowing of the year. All of this has turned bare, dirt fairways into green fields of grass and wildflowers.

The fairways with elevation however, are a different story. Our first significant rainfall after they were cleared washed a couple of inches of topsoil off them and left a field of rocks in its place. Over time, weeds have slowly taken root between the rocks and we've continued to clear the new rocks that appear after each rain. Because of the erosion however, these fairways are taking longer to fill in and most of them still have some bare spots. In another year or two though, I think they will have filled in enough that we will no longer have to worry about erosion.
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Old 11-19-2016, 02:12 AM
Gblambert Gblambert is offline
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Originally Posted by KniceZ View Post
We've all seen how courses can have significant impact especially around tee-pads and baskets and damage to certain tree species. It's hard to tell from the OP whether overall you consider the course to have negative impact given all your trying to do to mitigate the negative aspects.

Before everyone jumps - of course there's going to be some impact. I'm talking about relative impact compared to other potential uses for a park such as hiking/biking trails, ball golf courses, sports fields, playgrounds, etc.
You bring up a good point. What is the baseline upon which the environmental impact of a disc golf course can be assessed? In my case, I could compare the environmental impact of the course to 1) the land in its wild, natural state, 2) to other possible uses of the property, and 3) to other outdoor recreational activities.

Disc golf course vs no development (left natural) - before the course, the land was choked with invasive juniper trees and grapevine. Course development replaced this with grassy fairways and a healthier oak population. Wildlife on the land, however, has declined siginificantly. I would call this one a toss up.

Disc golf course vs other uses - the deed for this property allows it to be easily subdivided into 6 separate tracks, with a home on each one. The way this area is growing, I have no doubt that this would have become the eventual fate of the property if the golf course had not been developed instead. This would have meant 6 water wells, 6 septic systems, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. In this case, the impact of the golf course would be less damaging to the environment than residential development.

Disc golf course vs other outdoor recreational activities - this one depends on the type of activity. A few hiking trails and playgrounds wouldn't have much of an impact on the environment, but ball golf courses and sports fields would. Both require extensive clear cutting and land grading, installation of irrigation systems, and probable use of fertilizers and pesticides. In this case too, I think the disc golf course would be the more environmentally sensitive alternative.
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Old 11-19-2016, 09:01 AM
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DavidSauls DavidSauls is offline
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You can also sort out the effects to those that only affect your property, and those with broader effect.

An example of the latter is water, downstream or perhaps in the aquifer.

Some might be dependent on the uses of the neighboring property. If you cause a decline in wildlife, but the neighboring property is or is going to be developed, the wildlife would decline anyway. If you create a different environment than the neighboring property (more open than wooded), you might increase wildlife diversity. You might even create habitats that are otherwise disappearing (such as allowing wildflowers to thrive, and go to seed).

We have a private course in a much different region. We dammed an intermittent stream with springs underneath, to form a 2-acre pond. This changed the immediate environment, doubtless with some detriment, but also benefits to a different set of wildlife, and increased the diversity of it here.
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