MARTINEZ -- With unanimous City Council approval, the city staff will start working on a proposal to create a privately funded, free public disc golf course in the Hidden Lakes Open Space.

Martinez resident Stravos Kalogirou, a Disc Ball Club member, described the game and the plan at the June 18 council meeting where many were unfamiliar with the sport's existence and popularity.

Disc golf, he said, is eco-friendly, played with Frisbee-like discs and with scoring similar to traditional golf where the winner has the fewest number of shots at the basket.

"It's a fun, inexpensive, healthy low-impact game," Kalogirou said. "It can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities."

Disc courses are usually in undeveloped portions of parks already in use for other sports.

"Disc golf uses the existing terrain as-is," Kalogirou explained.

Although the thoroughly researched plan has the endorsement of the Martinez Parks, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission, many people at the meeting were unaware of the game's popularity in the East Bay.

There 4,000 courses across the country, 250 courses within 90 miles, with the two closest in Walnut Creek and Moraga.

Mayor Rob Schroder said he planned to visit a course, and Kalogirou recommended Moraga (established in 1982), which is smaller, but closely resembles the Hidden Lakes open space setting.

The Martinez Disc Golf Club has recruited course designer and architect Leonard Muise, who created the Golden Gate Park course, and certified arborist Steve Keller -- with a natural resource management degree from UC Berkeley -- to identify potential course areas in the open space.

Kalogirou said the club hopes to work with city staff to determine the number of holes and make final design choices which will avoid other use areas and trails.

Keller has also agreed to monitor the course in the first few years to find, and mitigate adverse environmental effects if there are any.

"I think it is a great idea," said Councilman Mark Ross, who played the game in college. "It's a great healthy game and helps develop hand-eye coordination."

Councilwoman Lara DeLaney questioned how a couple of potential sanctioned disc golf events per year would impact other park uses.

"We would not be closing off any part of the park," Kalogirou said.

DeLaney asked how they planned to avoid having people hit with Frisbees and Kalogirou said course design mapping would identify and avoid those high traffic areas.

In the end, DeLaney called it an "exciting opportunity" and voted in favor.

Councilwoman AnaMarie Avila Farias asked how the group would solicit community involvement.

"There is already buzz," Kalogirou said, adding there are plans for social media, contacting businesses that sell disc golf equipment and monthly youth clinics.

"Even if you have a Wham-O Frisbee, you can just go out and play," he said, agreeing with a Farias suggestion that Martinez Recreation offer a disc golf class. A video of the disc golf presentation is at www.cityofmartinez.org, go to departments, Mayor and City Council, meetings and agendas, then 2014 council meetings.

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