A disc golf course, walking trails and a playground are among ideas being considered to improve the city-owned Oak Knoll Golf Course.
"It's the only publicly owned property out in that neighborhood, so are there any other compatible uses that would not negatively impact the golf but would better serve the community?" asks Don Robertson, parks and recreation director.
The Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission last year asked city staff to study ways to improve the 73-acre golf course on Highway 66 without compromising its main function as a place for locals to play nine holes. Robertson gave the commission a brief report last month on the possibilities staff members had explored.
"This is all very conceptual at this point," Robertson says. "There are no hard-and-fast plans, no bulldozers hiding in the bushes."
The city wants to ensure that none of the potential improvements will result in fewer traditional golfers paying $11 to $16 to play nine holes. The course is expected to bring in $330,000 in revenue to the city this year, Robertson says.
Creating a nine-hole disc golf course, in which players try to hit targets with Frisbee-like discs, wouldn't be too expensive but might create problems between the different types of golfers, says Parks Commissioner Rich Rosenthal.
"I'm personally not supportive of a disc golf installation there," he says.
Rosenthal, who regularly plays golf at Oak Knoll and who studied the course while getting his master's degree in management at Southern Oregon University, estimates that a disc golf course would cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to install, but might impact the city's revenue from traditional golfers.
"How would you have them both, disc golfers and golfers, playing at the same time?" he says. "How's that all going to work? It's a management challenge."
Rosenthal says disc golfers aren't used to paying to play, so they might not frequent Oak Knoll because the city would be forced to charge an entry fee as it does to traditional golfers.
Robertson says there is space for a disc golf course at Oak Knoll in areas that are seldom used by traditional golfers.
"The disc golfers, along with myself, think a disc golf course could be laid across the existing course utilizing roughs and out-of-bounds areas," he says.
However, having two different golfing groups using the same property could create problems, Robertson says.
"The conclusion is that we have two different cultures," he says. "But no decisions have been made yet."
City officials have proposed installing a playground on the property, perhaps near the existing clubhouse, to give neighborhood children a place to play. Oak Knoll is the only city park in the area.
Commissioners also are exploring expanding a rudimentary trail system around the course, to give nearby residents a place to walk.
"I think the key part of this is to provide more opportunity to the community at large," Robertson says. "However, the golf course is operated more on a business model, and anything we do out there, we don't want to damage the existing revenue stream."
The commission has yet to decide which, if any, of the proposed improvements to implement and it is also looking for other suggestions. To comment on the project, e-mail Robertson at email@example.com.
Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or firstname.lastname@example.org.