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Sacramento Residents Transform Parks Affected by Crime, Homelessness With Disc Golf

Sacramento Residents Transform Parks Affected by Crime, Homelessness With Disc Golf

Matt King in front of the first tee pad on the hole dedicated to his family for their leadership in establishing the disc golf course at Chorley Park in Sacramento on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

6/9/2024

Updated: 6/11/2024

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Sacramento residents concerned about public safety in parks because of homeless encampments have taken matters into their own hands.
Matt King and his family—in collaboration with the Sacramento Disc Golf Association and resident Josh Everett—have worked to transform William Chorley Park in southern Sacramento by introducing recreational activities, including the installation of an 18-hole disc golf course—a similar concept to golf but using frisbees.
A new playground, landscaping, and fresh paint and repairs to upgrade restrooms and fire lane areas have also been added.
Mr. King said his goal was to improve his community and make the park accessible for families.
“Now everyone can use it; you can bring your kids here,” Mr. King told The Epoch Times. “It’s nowhere near like it was, this is a gem. I really think what we’ve done here is a good thing.”
Locals say it has resulted in fewer calls to police and park rangers and more people enjoying public space. Before it was transformed, the area was inundated with homeless camps, criminal activity, drug use, and fires, causing many to feel unsafe and thus avoid the park, multiple residents told The Epoch Times.
The moment of release as Mark Forsyth putts for birdie on the sixth hole of the Reichmuth Park disc golf course in Sacramento on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

The moment of release as Mark Forsyth putts for birdie on the sixth hole of the Reichmuth Park disc golf course in Sacramento on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Disc golfers enjoying league play in Reichmuth Park in Sacramento on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Disc golfers enjoying league play in Reichmuth Park in Sacramento on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

One homeowner, who has lived next to the park for nearly four decades, said the community is grateful for its recent transformation.
“Thanks to all the work from the community ... we’re having events and all kinds of recreation, things that we haven’t had in years,” Martha Gomez Perez told The Epoch Times. “Now people feel safe.”
Donations—including concrete for tee pads and equipment, among other things—from community members worth several thousand dollars made the project possible.
Mr. King and his family found grant money to help install the frisbee golf course and make other improvements, as well as putting in substantial “sweat equity” to see the project to completion. Now, its first hole of the course is dedicated to them.
A collaboration between advocates and the city’s parks department brought the idea to fruition.
Signage on the first tee of the disc golf course at William Chorley Park in Sacramento on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Signage on the first tee of the disc golf course at William Chorley Park in Sacramento on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

One relative newcomer to the area, Dakota Brown from Indiana, said he had never visited the park before the course was installed but is now a regular.
“Disc golfers are a great community,” he told The Epoch Times. “It’s great exercise, it’s cheap to get into ... and regardless of your background, it’s really pleasant.”
Mr. Brown noted the tranquil nature of the game—a blend of nature and sport, with no irrigation, herbicides, or heavy maintenance required to keep courses playable.
“We want the natural beauty,” he said. “We want the trees to exist.”
Dakota Brown and Siobhan Gilmore at the Chorley Park disc golf course in Sacramento on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Dakota Brown and Siobhan Gilmore at the Chorley Park disc golf course in Sacramento on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

His partner said she likes to walk with him while he plays so she can see birds, other wildlife, and plants.
“It’s something that we can do together,” Siobhan Gilmore told The Epoch Times. “And I’ve always liked hiking and being outdoors.”
A Sacramento native who’s lived near the 32.2-acre park since 2009 said that in years past, drug dealers hung out at its entrance while homeless camps flourished.
But the recent changes make it possible for his family to enjoy it.
“Before the disc golf course was installed, my wife would never come back here by herself, even with our rottweiler,” Branden Bayze, 41, told The Epoch Times. “It was really inaccessible.”
One disc golf regular said Chorley Park has undergone a complete turnaround.
“It was a complete wasteland, it was closed to the public, and the bathrooms were in disrepair,” Mark Forsyth, 40, told The Epoch Times. “But after they put the disc golf in, the park is now being used by everybody ... it’s night and day.”
He said the same thing occurred at another course nearby in Reichmuth Park. At one point, that park also had a large homeless encampment with prevalent drug use and fires that left the grounds trashed and created unsafe conditions.
“It was gross,” Mr. Forsyth said. “[Now,] it’s no longer a spot to do bad things because people are here all the time.”
Mark Forsyth said the addition of disc golf to local parks has made the community safer and more enjoyable for residents, in Reichmuth Park in Sacramento. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Mark Forsyth said the addition of disc golf to local parks has made the community safer and more enjoyable for residents, in Reichmuth Park in Sacramento. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

He estimates that approximately 1,000 people play the Reichmuth Park course every week. On a recent Thursday evening during league play, every hole was being played, with about 50 players on the course.
On the same league day, several were observed picking up trash and working to maintain the grounds while they played.
The course displays plaques commemorating donations from businesses and community members who made the course possible.
“I think it’s great ... and it’s my home course, so I’ve seen the progress made,” Mr. Forsyth said. “The benefits are just mind-blowing.”
Now about a decade old, a course in McClatchy Park in the city yielded similar results.
Mark Forsyth tees off on one of the iconic holes on the disc golf course at Reichmuth Park in Sacramento, Calif., on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Mark Forsyth tees off on one of the iconic holes on the disc golf course at Reichmuth Park in Sacramento, Calif., on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Data Confirms Locals’ Observations

A report from the city’s parks commission confirms that calls related to crime and disturbances decreased by more than 50 percent after the Chorley Park course was installed last summer.
“We have seen significant increase in positive activation and use of the entire park since the implementation of the disc golf course,” the Parks Commission report reads.
Between January and June 2023, 25 calls for service were received, and the number dropped to 12 from the time the course opened in June 2023 to February this year, according to the report.
Law enforcement officials agreed that reactivating parks with increased foot traffic creates an unwanted environment for vagrants and discourages criminal activity.
“Adding ... these types of activity areas can reduce crime because they utilize the crime prevention through environmental design model,” the Sacramento Police Department’s public information office told The Epoch Times by email on June 3. “Additionally, these spaces create a place for community members to connect, create neighborhood bonds, and build a safer community together.”
Players finish their putts on the sixth hole of league play at the disc golf course in Reichmuth Park in Sacramento, Calif., on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Players finish their putts on the sixth hole of league play at the disc golf course in Reichmuth Park in Sacramento, Calif., on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Studies published over the past 20 years by the University of North Carolina and the University of California–Davis and a report written by a doctoral student at the University of West Virginia highlighted the economic and social benefits of the game, documenting how the sport can improve public spaces.

More Courses Coming Soon?

Proponents in the city are seeking to have a course returned to Del Paso Park that was removed in years past, suggesting the current overgrown conditions are a result of the loss of activity.
The city is currently considering a 2040 master plan for local parks that includes more recreational activities to encourage park activation—including adding up to 10 more disc golf courses.
While the item was on the agenda for a June 6 Parks Commission hearing, Victoria Vasquez, chair of the commission, put off discussion of the plan until the end and then voted against extending the meeting beyond its two hours before it could be discussed.
When asked why, especially since at least five people had come to the hearing to provide public comment on the plan, Ms. Vasquez told The Epoch Times: “I’ve never seen such a packed agenda. There were too many items on the agenda today. And I don’t see the rush.”
Fellow commissioners and multiple members of the public told The Epoch Times after the meeting that the series of events was unprecedented.
The 12th basket at the Chorley disc golf course in Sacramento on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

The 12th basket at the Chorley disc golf course in Sacramento on May 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

The city council is expected to take up the items next month. Noting that commissioners also want to discuss the plan, Ms. Vasquez, however, said the council will be asked to delay their vote.
Disc golfers from around the city said they are hopeful the sport continues to expand—including the installation of more courses, which can cost between $50,000 and $400,000 depending on the size of the project and existing site conditions, according to the master plan.
“Sacramento could be a disc golf destination, if the city lets it,” resident Gilbert Moreno, 58, told The Epoch Times.
With nearly 500 courses spread across the Golden State, other cities in California—including San Jose and Los Angeles, among others—are also considering new installations.
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

Author

Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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