Just north of Interstate 182 and west of the Tri-Cities Airport sits 52 acres of scablands that long ago were designated for cross country runners and trail walkers.
Last year, Pasco Parks & Recreation officials realized the area known as “Big Cross” is prime property for a new disc golf course.
So after developing several partnerships and scheduling work parties the first two months of summer, the city is close to opening an 18-hole course surrounded by the natural trails off Road 36. It is just north of Pasco Golfland.
Dan Dotta, Pasco’s interim Administrative & Community Services director, recently told City Council members that the course helps improve on the quality of life for Tri-Citians, while also getting Pasco in on one of the country’s fastest-growing sports.
“For people that don’t know what disc golf is, it’s actually the same thing as golf, just without the clubs,” Dotta said.
And, unlike traditional golf, there are no greens fee or other expenses that can easily rack up. There is no cost to use a disc golf course. A player just needs a Frisbee-like plastic disc.
Players throw the disc from a long, concrete tee pad, and mark the disc’s landing spot until they’re able to get it inside or hanging in the chains of a basket that’s elevated about 30 inches off the ground.
The sport has been in the Tri-Cities since the late 1980s, and the Pasco course will join three others: Columbia Park in Kennewick, Two Rivers Park in Finley and James L. Lawless Park in Richland.
Nick Johnson, a disc golfer since 1996 and longtime member of the Tri-Cities Disc Golf Club, says it is phenomenal that Pasco officials want to introduce the sport to their community.
“It’s a great feeling that we finally have one (course) in each city,” the Pasco resident told the Herald. He said the cost of a disc can range from $7 online to $20 in a local pro shop.
Johnson, who surveyed the holes and has been working on the course, said it is going to be the biggest permanent course in the area.
A recent walk-through as if playing put the course at 3 1/2 miles, compared to 2 to 2 1/4 miles at Columbia Park, he said. Two Rivers is slightly bigger than the Kennewick course.
Johnson said Pasco’s course is “really primitive and rough” at the moment until they can line the fairways and the paths with wood chips.
He added that there are no trees, irrigation or manicured grass, and that it’s a tight course in order to keep the cross country track intact. However, the tee pads were situated so players can see the nearby walking paths to avoid any mistakes when throwing their discs.
Dotta contacted Justin Cargill last fall about the idea, and Cargill brought on board fellow club members Johnson and Dan Parr.
The city also reached out to the Port of Pasco, the Pasco School District, the Pasco Kiwanis club and 3 Rivers Road Runners. It became a signature project for the Kiwanians, who covered expenses that include the concrete tee pads, basket anchors, baskets and signs.
Dotta said they saved $5,000 by having Brent Kubalek, Pasco’s recreation services manager, design the course.
“You go out there, it’s not easy going up and down hills, cutting across hillsides,” Dotta said. But it was created so that if someone wants to shorten their play, they can come in from Road 36 or from Road 44 and just do nine holes.
The baskets should be installed July 15 so the course can open in late July. They hope to have an official opening and maybe even host the first tournament in September.
Dotta said there are more than 4,000 registered Professional Disc Golf Association courses nationwide, the first one opening in 1974 in Los Angeles.
Washington memberships grew by 16 percent and new courses by 37 percent in 2016, he said.
People will be free to use the course whenever they want. However, if clubs or schools want to organize an event, they can set it up through the Parks & Recreation Department to make sure there are no conflicts with any races.
Dotta said even after the course is open, there will be more opportunities for volunteer work, like installing benches, garbage cans and even an information gazebo with a bulletin board and course map.
Councilman Chi Flores commended city staff for coming up with this project, saying disc golf is affordable fun for a family. He’s played at Two Rivers with his three children, and joked that the river has claimed a lot of their discs.
Councilman Saul Martinez said it’s a display of collaboration of what makes a community thrive — and will keep the hacks off the real golf courses.
“It’s a family event, it’s exercise and the course is quite a bit different,” he added. “I know it’s going to be a great thing for Pasco. I just hope that we can continue to do this more and more in our community.”