WAYNE, NJ - Amid recent protests from environmental groups, a proposed plan to locate a disc golf course in Rifle Camp Park, located at Garret Mountain, is being reconsidered by Passaic County officials, who are now looking to possibly place it at the Preakness Valley Golf Course in Wayne.
The announcement came this week from Passaic County Freeholder directer Sandi Lazzara at a freeholder meeting, who said the county will explore the location as an alternate site and look into its viability for an 18-hole disc golf course.
Opponents contend that Rifle Camp Park should remain a "natural oasis" and the the construction of the course will be hard on the environment, being that it is an active sport that is not conducive to passive recreational activities, such as hiking and birding.
Representatives of Friends of Garret Mountain Reservation and Save Rifle Camp Park Coalition have been vocal against the county's plans during most of the year, expressing their discontent at several freeholder meetings. A press conference was recently held by the groups last month in front of the Rifle Camp Park Nature Center and Observatory, in order to protest the plan.
Freeholder Pat Lepore responded to concerns from those groups, by saying the issues that are being raised are not accurate, including the amount of trees and shrubs that would be cleared away at Rifle Camp Park, which he emphasized would be minimal. Another misconception is that the area was a forest preserve. He also questioned why the groups have no concern for any impact that would potentially be made at Preakness Valley Golf Course.
"The director is doing what she believes is right by giving an opportunity to look at an alternate site," Lepore said. "Problem is that they're complaining about placing it in at Rifle Camp Park because it would be detrimental to wildlife and the environment and that they didn't want to see trees cut down in that location. But they don't have the same concern for Preakness Valley Golf Course? I guess it doesn't matter to them placing the disc golf course there."
Lepore added that Rob Farr, a forester hired by the county, would now be looking into Preakness Valley Golf Course as a viable alternative, as he previously concluded with Rifle Camp Road. He also said that he understands the environmental groups' passion and their desire to find an alternate location.
"I totally understand that they want the park for themselves but we'll look at what the recommendation is as a result of the forester's investigation at that alternate site," Lepore noted, adding that the disc golf course is permissible as a recreational activity through a $20,000 Green Acres grant.
Kurt Schnakenberg, webmaster for the Save Rifle Camp Park Coalition website, SaveRCP.org, said that the announcement from the county was a positive development but that the group is still keeping in mind the results of the investigation.
"We are hoping it will result in Rifle Camp Park remaining a natural wonder for future generations. Until then, we are going to continue to build our coalition and work on issues relevant to rebuilding Rifle Camp Park and seeing it become what it should be - an asset for the community," he said, adding that they'd like to see the park's nature center and observatory reopened, among other improvements.
Schnakenberg also said that Preakness Valley Golf Course is a better fit as an alternative for disc golf because of its amenities.
"It's a better accompaniment for that recreational sport," he explained. "It has a clubhouse and is the largest park in the county."
He also noted that the organization is working with the Friends of Garret Mountain Reservation, including other groups, to create a volunteer program for Rifle Camp Park.