A New Kensington man’s desire to use his neighborhood park for a disc golf course has put him at odds with some of his neighbors, who fear it will attract too many people and damage their private life.
Jim Jackson left Arnold for Fairmont Drive in January. His home borders Fairmont Park, which today is mostly grass land with a small playground bordered by Fairmont Drive and Greenbriar Avenue. Both are dead end streets lined with houses.
“Looking out from my house, I’m privileged to see a beautiful park like this,” Jackson said. “It looks like our backyard.”
Jackson, 53, and salesman, got into disc golf in 2015 after stumbling across a course at Deer Lakes Park in West Deer. He saw a basket, wondered what it was and looked for it.
“I was hooked,” he said. “Being outdoors is probably one of the biggest benefits for me. I lost a lot of weight. I keep moving and, quite honestly, one of the most important things is that it’s a sport I can play and I don’t have to sprint.
Fairmont Park was once more than it is today. The park once contained a ball diamond and basketball and tennis courts — amenities that attracted people from beyond the neighborhood, Chuck Susek said. Susek said he had lived at the end of Fairmont Drive near the park entrance for all of his 74 years.
“At one time it was a very, very beautiful park,” he said.
Those facilities deteriorated or damaged over time, and the city removed them, Susek said. The large metal safety net and some fencing are all that’s left of the ballpark. Part of the park behind the safety net is forested.
Wooded area in question
It was in these woods that much of the friction between Jackson and his new neighbors arose.
“Normally disc golf is played in the woods,” Jackson said. “Trees are a big obstacle. This is one of the obstacles we use.
Jackson said he found the area overgrown with knotweed and filled with dead and fallen trees and trash. He said he contacted Councilman Dante Cicconi, who oversees parks, and Cicconi gave him the go-ahead to clean up the area and place portable disc golf hoops in Fairmont Park.
“To me, the volunteer effort seemed harmless,” Cicconi said. “I want more people to use the parks.”
But for other park neighbors like Barb Kitko, it was alarming. She and other homeowners love having the dense woods behind their homes.
“You took away our privacy, you took away our isolation, you took away our peace,” Vicki Kowalski, who lives across Greenbriar in Kitko, Jackson, said when residents raised concerns. to City Council at its Monday meeting.
Where to park?
Kitko’s property borders the park, which she says has seen little use in recent years due to limited access — the only way in or out is at the end of Fairmont Drive — and lack of parking.
Susek said the park is now mostly used by neighboring residents who bring their children or walk their dogs.
Kitko and others worry about the traffic a disc golf course could bring to their neighborhood — cars parked on the roads, stray discs, noise, alcohol, and people walking through their yard to retrieve discs or enter the park .
“Where are these people going to park? There is no parking for this park,” said Mary Roach, whose 21-year-old home on Greenbriar borders the park.
Greenbriar resident Russ Hirtz said parking has always been the park’s biggest problem. He heard about what Jackson wants to do.
“I’m not against it,” he said. But, “someone should have done more research.”
Road parking was a problem when the baseball field and basketball and tennis courts were there. This prompted Susek to put up a “no parking” sign so his driveway wouldn’t be blocked. Although he hasn’t had this problem for several years, the sign is still there.
Kitko said broken beer bottles and litter have been a problem before.
“You know what’s going to happen out there,” she said, referring to the woods. “We had problems in the open area.”
Residents also wondered how a single councilor, Cicconi, could approve Jackson’s plans and work without it being relayed to the full council and they being briefed first.
If it was just Jackson and his family playing, Kowalski said they would be okay. As Jackson sees it, Kowalski and other residents also see the park as an extension of their backyard.
“We don’t want strangers strutting around,” she said.
Kowalski and others have said that a place like Memorial Park would be a more suitable location for a disc golf course. Of the city’s five parks, it’s the only one that isn’t considered a neighborhood park, according to City Clerk Dennis Scarpiniti.
Whose park is this, anyway?
Jackson said the question comes down to whether they want people to use the park, and whether it’s for anyone or just those who live nearby. He didn’t want the class to come out until he had a plan.
“I thought I was doing well. I look at this property and I want people to use it,” he said. “I don’t want to disagree with my neighbors.”
The fact that few people use the park is something Kowalski said he likes.
“It’s a small residential park,” she said. “We love this park.”
Cicconi said the city could address concerns by implementing a buffer zone, using trees that are expected to be planted throughout the city later this year. He could also consider building a parking lot, but would need a grant to pay for it.
“I play on the side of ‘Let’s see how it goes. Let frisbee golf happen,” he said. “If it becomes a problem, we will deal with it.”
Mayor Tom Guzzo said he understands neighbors’ concerns as well as Jackson’s desire to improve the park and bring it to people’s enjoyment.
“Based on all the conversations I had after the meeting and since, I’m sure Councilor Cicconi and we will all find a fair and workable solution,” he said.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Brian by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .