Plan for disc golf course in neighborhood park alarms New Kensington residents

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 infringe on their privacy.

Jim Jackson moved to Fairmont Drive from Arnold in January. His house borders Fairmont Park, which today is mostly a grass field with a small playground bordered by Fairmont Drive and Greenbriar Avenue. Both are dead-end streets lined with homes.

“Looking out of my house, I’m privileged to see a beautiful park like that,” Jackson said. “It feels like our backyard.”

Jackson, 53, and a salesman, got into disc golf in 2015 after stumbling upon a course at Deer Lakes Park in West Deer. He saw a basket, wondered what it was and looked it up.

“I was hooked,” he said. “Being outside is probably one of the biggest benefits to me. I lost a lot of weight. I keep moving and, quite honestly, one of the biggest things is it’s a sport that I can do and I don’t have to sprint.”

Fairmont Park used to be more than it is today. The park once contained a ball field and basketball and tennis courts — amenities that drew people to it from beyond the neighborhood, said Chuck Susek. Susek said he has lived at the end of Fairmont Drive by the park entrance for all of his 74 years.

“At one time, it was a really, really nice park,” he said.

Those facilities became deteriorated or damaged over time, and the city removed them, Susek said. The tall metal backstop and some fencing are all that remain of the ball field. Part of the park behind the backstop is wooded.

Wooded area at issue

It’s in those woods where much of the friction between Jackson and his new neighbors arose.

“Normally, disc golf is played in the woods,” Jackson said. “Trees are an important obstacle. It’s one of the obstacles that we use.”

Jackson said he found the area overgrown with knotweed and filled with dead and fallen trees and garbage. He said he contacted city Councilman Dante Cicconi, who oversees parks, and Cicconi gave him the OK to clear the area and place portable disc golf baskets in Fairmont Park.

“To me, the volunteer effort seemed harmless,” Cicconi said. “I want more people to use the parks.”

But to other park neighbors like Barb Kitko, it was alarming. She and other homeowners like having the dense woods behind their houses.

“You took away our privacy, you took away our seclusion, you took away our quietness,” Vicki Kowalski, who lives across Greenbriar from Kitko, said to Jackson when the residents aired their concerns to city council at its meeting Monday.

Where to park?

Kitko’s property borders the park, which she said has seen little use in recent years because of limited access — the only way in or out is at the end of Fairmont Drive — and lack of parking.

Susek said the park now is used mainly by nearby residents who bring their children or who walk their dogs.

Kitko and others worry about the traffic a disc golf course could bring to their neighborhood — cars parked on the roads, errant discs, noise, drinking and people walking through their yards to retrieve discs or get into the park.

“Where are these people going to park? There’s no parking lot for that park,” said Mary Roach, whose home of 21 years on Greenbriar borders the park.

Greenbriar resident Russ Hirtz said parking has always been the biggest issue with the park. He has heard about what Jackson wants to do.

“I’m not against it,” he said. But, “somebody should have done more research.”

Parking on the roads was a problem when the baseball field and basketball and tennis courts were there. It prompted Susek to put up a “no parking” sign so his driveway would not be blocked. Although he hasn’t had that problem for several years, the sign is still there.

Kitko said broken beer bottles and trash had been a problem before.

“You know what’s going to happen back there,” she said, referring to the woods. “We had trouble in the open area.”

Residents also questioned how a single councilman, Cicconi, could approve Jackson’s plans and work without it going to the full council and their being notified first.

If it was just Jackson and his family playing, Kowalski said they would be OK with it. Like Jackson sees it, Kowalski and other residents also consider the park to be an extension of their backyards.

“We don’t want strangers prancing through,” she said.

Kowalski and others said a place like Memorial Park would be a more appropriate location for a disc golf course. Of the city’s five parks, it’s the only one not considered to be a neighborhood park, according to city Clerk Dennis Scarpiniti.

Whose park is it, anyway?

Jackson said the issue boils down to whether they want people to use the park, and if it’s for anyone to use or only those who live next to it. He didn’t want word of the course to get out until he had a plan.

“I thought I was doing good. I look at that property, and I want people to use it,” he said. “I don’t want to be at odds with my neighbors.”

That few people use the park is something Kowalski said they like about it.

“This is a small, residential park,” she said. “We like that park.”

Cicconi said the city could address concerns by putting in a buffer, using trees planned to be planted throughout the city later this year. It also could look into building a parking lot but would need grant money to pay for it.

“I’m playing the side of ‘Let’s see how it goes. Let Frisbee golf happen,’” he said. “If it becomes an issue, we’ll deal with it.”

Mayor Tom Guzzo said he understands the neighbors’ concerns as well as Jackson’s desire to improve the park and have people enjoy it.

“Based on all of the conversations I’ve had both after the meeting and since, I am sure that Councilman Cicconi and us will all come up with a solution that is fair and workable,” he said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian by email at or via Twitter .

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