Disc golf resumed at the Columbia Water Park following Monday’s Marion County Board of Supervisors meeting.
A group of disc golfers agreed to abide by the county’s rules after a 40-minute discussion with District 2 Supervisor Terry Broome, whose district includes the Water Park.
Supervisors passed a motion for disc golf to continue and be reviewed again in six months. If there are not further issues, then the activity will be restored permanently and if anyone causes any trouble they will be banned from the Water Park.
The activity, which had been at the Water Park since 2011, had recently been suspended following disputes between golfers and county officials. The sport involves tossing a disc, sometimes called a Frisbee, into a basket.
“When disc golf came into the park several years ago there was nothing going on at the Water Park, virtually nothing. It was run down. Pearl River Basin at the time owned it, and they were not putting any money in it,” Broome said. “We bought the park up, and we worked hard to bring it up and it is a place of entertainment for families throughout this county.”
“During that time as far as just having the disc golf as a place that you can just every day of the week play all 18 holes is just about a thing of the past because it has outgrown the disc golf. But just like any other thing, it can be played within whatever else is going on. It just has to be a cooperation between everybody and the disc golf players also,” Broome continued.
Broome addressed the removal of limbs from the course which were put to the side.
“Anything that is to take place, whether to cut a bush or put a sign up and say you are going to have a tournament, that tournament has to go through the Board of Supervisors and be approved,” he said.
Greg Fortenberry, a local disc golfer, stood and said, “I just want to say that we have had events out there, but it would be much better for the city and the county as far money put back into the course. I would like to do more events and in correlation with your office. I would be contacting you first before I decide anything. I’m sorry anything got mixed up.”
Broome asked Fortenberry about a May 25 incident where signs stating the course was closed were torn down and thrown in the garbage. Fortenberry said that had happened before he showed up and he and the group that was already at the Water Park did leave once deputies arrived. He then apologized for the incident.
Fortenberry said the group was being assertive and stood its ground, but when the officers arrived, they left peacefully. Broome responded, “First off Mr. Fortenberry you have no ground to stand; that’s county land. You abide by what grounds which was already established. For standing ground on county property, it is not the way you look at it. You abide by the rules and regulations that were put on this property. Standing ground is where the problem is right now: the fact that there are a couple of people standing ground right now.”
Broome commented how the county does not receive any money when tournaments are played. Fortenberry said it does because of rental of the pavilion. Fortenberry mentioned that if they have six tournaments a year there that would $600 the county would receive plus businesses and mentioned the three percent sales tax raise in the city on dining and lodging.
Broome replied “the county doesn’t get any sales tax.” Only cities receive a portion of sales tax revenues in Mississippi.
Scott Smith of Hattiesburg addressed the board: “We would like to today come in compliance with you. The limb situation, where do we need to move them? We brought our trucks to move the limbs.”
Broome said, “It’s not the limbs; it is the principle of the fact that you don’t go cutting limbs or do anything at the Water Park without the approval of the Board of Supervisors.”
Tony Bass of the Hattiesburg Disc Golf Association and creator of the course spoke next.
“I am not sure if any of you gentlemen were there when we installed the course, but I went before the Board of Supervisors and did a presentation and y’all had $4,000 in grant money that needed to be spent or you would lose it so you were going to pay for the front nine. My agreement at the time was that if y’all would do the front nine I would go around town and get the back nine,” he said. “Luckily it didn’t take much work. Mr. Mack Grubbs saw my article in the paper, came to me immediately and wrote me two checks to pay for the back nine. He got on board, donated a substantial amount of money. The city had donated some money, between the costs of the baskets and the costs of the signage, all the materials and concrete, we’ve got about $7,500, closer to $8,000. I didn’t crunch all the numbers; that is just rough math. Not to mention all the time and money I have invested myself.”
Bass said he believed he had permission to schedule tournaments, but he hasn’t recently because of the friction with the county.
“The last time we had one they (county) flat out told us we couldn’t ask people to move out of the fairways if they park in the fairways. After that I was like, ‘OK fine, we cannot do tournaments out here anymore.’ It’s a shame. It’s a fantastic course. It’s a shame we cannot get along and put on tournaments to bring people to y’all’s town. You already made the investment. To pull the plug on it would be bad on everyone involved. I apologize for the way it went.”
“This course is in the middle of county property; it is on county property; it is owned by the county,” Broome responded. “I don’t care who paid for the equipment, the baskets or whatever. It belongs to the county, Marion County. If you put something out there it belongs to the county from then on. If you set it in the ground a flag pole or disc golf basket it doesn’t matter, it is county property.”
Broome went on to say, “If anything is going to take place out there pertaining to the field the disc golf field it needs to be brought to the attention of this office. If a tournament is going to be planned, it needs to be first planned through here (Board of Supervisors), but I would greatly prefer myself with all the activities that goes on that you would find somewhere else to have the tournament instead of that small park because it is going to interfere.”
Bass questioned Broome, “Did you say you would rather us not have tournaments?” Broome reaffirmed “I’d rather a tournament not take place there.” Bass asked, “There is no other courses in Columbia so you don’t want us to bring anyone else to Columbia to play disc golf?” Broome replied “not a tournament.”
Broome then added, “I didn’t say we were not going to have tournaments. I’d rather there not be one out there. That is my personal opinion because it is really hard to coordinate one.”
Fortenberry said he would consult with the Board of Supervisors’ office to coordinate any tournaments and that he would be the local tournament director.
Broome then went on to say the board has talked and they do not want the disc golf to end because of local people who play. He just wants to see that all the rules and regulations are followed.
Broome continued, “If trouble arises, if we still have trouble then we will make another move on it. The first move that we will make that we had talked about doing is you (Fortenberry) and Mr. Bass be eliminated from coming to the Water Park. ‘Cause you two are the only problems we have had in the last several years.”
Pictured Above: Marion County Board of Supervisors President Terry Broome, left, shakes hands with Tony Bass of the Hattiesburg Disc Golf Association Monday while Scott Smith, right, talks to members of the board. Bass and Smith and several other disc golfers came to the Monday board meeting to discuss the problems concerning disc golf at the Water Park. The board agreed to reopen the course based on golfers assenting to follow county rules. | Photo by Susan Amundson