Union is planning improvements to Clark-Vitt Memorial Park, and a group of disc golfers is tossing in to help.
The city recently was told it will receive a $30,000 grant from the state Department of Natural Resources for construction of a rubber playground base at the park, similar to what is at the Kiwanis playground near the entrance of Veterans Memorial Park. The grant is an important contribution, Parks Director Chad Pohlmann said, though the final project is expected to cost about twice as much as the grant.
The rubber base, which is made of recycled tires, is safer in case kids fall and also holds up better in rain than mulch.
Union also is considering other ideas about how to improve the 13.8-acre park, which opened in 1968 and sits across the street from the recently-closed Clark-Vitt Elementary School.
Among the features Pohlmann would like to improve in the 2021-22 budget year is an asphalt trail that goes through the woods. He said the trail is steep and can get slick, making it difficult for many to navigate. “It needs attention, love,” he said at the Thursday, Aug. 27, park advisory board meeting. “The trail is outdated. It wouldn’t meet standards today if we put it in, for a lot of reasons.”
Pohlmann plans to have a public meeting, held in person and using videoconferencing, to allow residents to give feedback on what improvements they would like to see at the park.
Joshua Smith-Moore, owner of the Aces & Eagles disc golf store in Washington, presented some ideas for the park at the meeting, including improving the 11-hole course there.
A group of between 20-30 people plays disc golf courses in Washington and St. Clair each week and would like to play in Union, Smith-Moore said.
But the woods along the narrow fairways are so thick that players often lose their discs.
“The group will not meet there, because there are too many bushes and trees that have fallen down there,” he said. “And so there’s no access to even go from basket to basket at the disc golf course.”
The group considered cleaning up the course by hand and determined that would be too much work, Smith-Moore said. So it met with an excavator, who is willing to donate his time to help clear the property.
“There won’t be anything bigger than your pinky left over, it mulches it and leaves it and levels the ground back out,” he said. “They can literally go through in just a couple of hours. We’re not saying change the disc golf course, just re-clear the area you guys already have built as a disc golf course. I guarantee you I can bring 20 or 30 people every Monday, and we’ll play disc golf over there.”
The course, which opened eight years ago, also could be used for charity tournaments, which Smith-Moore said his organization would run for free. The disc golfers also are raising money for a charity that would pay for off-road wheelchairs to allow people with disabilities to play the sport.
Despite the lack of a course that can be used much of the year, Smith-Moore said at least half the people who come into his shop live in Union.
“They’re coming to Washington, buying things and then playing in Washington and St. Clair,” he said. “And it drives me crazy because you guys have a great course, we just need to clear it up.”
Pohlmann told The Missourian he plans to discuss Smith-Moore’s proposal with the board of aldermen this month. The city will need an agreement covering insurance and other procedures before the improvements can proceed.
But Pohlmann hopes that will be worked out quickly. “It would be awesome if we could have him clear it out this month,” he said.
Long term, Pohlmann would like to extend the disc golf course, which currently goes from the parking lot at the top of Autumn Hill through the woods, down to the main part of Clark-Vitt Park. Eventually, he would like to see the course continue across the street with holes along City Lake.
Pohlmann also wants to see all the park’s paths and disc golf holes made Americans with Disabilities Act accessible, which includes having a grade of no more than 2 percent. That goal could take years to complete. He expects improvements to the park to be done piece by piece over several years, which could save money by allowing city workers to do more of the project.