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Photo courtesy:  Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman

The City of Jackson today announced a new partnership with the Kiwanis Foundation of Jackson to fund the construction of the City of Jackson’s first disc golf course to be located in Ella Sharp Park. The announcement is the culmination of work undertaken by a committee formed in late 2013 to investigate the possibility of a course adjacent to the Ella Sharp Golf Course Clubhouse.

“We believe the Kiwanis Course will be a destination place much like Kiwanis Park,” said Therese Hesslau, vice president of the Kiwanis Foundation Board and 2012 Citizen of the Year. “We’re glad to continue to give back to a community that has so much to offer.”

The Kiwanis Foundation of Jackson is donating $15,000 to the City of Jackson to complete construction of the 18-hole course in Ella Sharp Park. The City plans to work with the disc golf committee and area disc golfers to design the course, clear the grounds, and construct the course with a target for completion in early spring of 2016.

“We were really pleased to see how this course fits into the larger vision for our city,” said Eileen Lehnert, president of the Kiwanis Foundation Board. “The sport appeals to a predominately younger demographic, and our community is really reflective of that audience.

“Kiwanis focuses on children so this fits in beautifully with our mission. The fact that it will be free to play means it will be accessible to all.”

According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, disc golf continues to increase in popularity year after year (about 4-12% per year), and appeals to a predominately younger audience (20 to 39 year olds make up 59.7% of their membership, and 75% have some sort of post-secondary schooling). Michigan ranked third in nation in terms of active members, sixth in the nation in terms of number of courses, and sixth in the nation in terms of associated disc golf events.

Organizers of the effort believe bringing a disc golf course to the City could make the city and our parks system even more attractive for young families looking to relocate in the Jackson community.

“Jackson has a great parks system, and our partnership with Kiwanis underscores that,” said City Councilman Derek Dobies, who spearheaded the effort to build the course at Ella Sharp. “As a young city, recreational opportunities like Kiwanis Course can help us recruit and retain future families.”

“Jackson has really come a long way in just the past four years and a disc golf course is one more thing to make our community even more attractive,” said Kathryn Snyder, who chairs the disc golf committee. “This is why I’m so excited about this partnership.”

Dobies, who also serves on the Ella Sharp Park Board of Trustees, noted that a disc golf course is part of the Ella Sharp Park master plan and that a recent resident survey showed disc golf ranking high on a list of things people wanted to see more of in the regional parks system. He plans to work with the Ella Sharp Park Board to provide a small “pro” shop within the Ella Sharp Park Golf Clubhouse, which will double as a clubhouse for the new course.

Dobies expects a $200,000 Weatherwax Foundation grant to help in removing some of the invasive tree and shrub species on the proposed course site. The course, designed to Professional Disc Golf Association standards, will be low-maintenance and provide opportunities for revenue (for maintenance and upgrades) through tournaments and other sponsorships.

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