Another free outdoor activity will soon be available in the heart of Okotoks with the help of some dogged determination and elbow grease.
Over a dozen volunteers combined with Town of Okotoks staff on June 25 to construct the new nine-hole disc golf course in the forested area in the picturesque river valley.
“The community’s that I’m a part of are all centred around me as a teacher so you get those core families and get those people that are just energized by everything,” said Graham Campbell, outdoor-education teacher at Westmount School and the spearhead of the project. “They’re just all in, they’re excited about being a part of something and this was just a great turnout.
“Without the volunteers this wouldn’t be possible at all.”
The course, which is expected to be open to the public in July, is located northeast of the Water Treatment Plant in a forested area near the banks of the Sheep River with parking available in the lot just east of Rich’s Playground in Sheep River Park.
The Westmount School community was out in full force with teachers Campbell and Steven Kotowich along with students and families aiding in the construction, from shoveling gravel to installing the metal baskets.
Senator Riley physical education and science teacher Drew Hoover also played a large role in the course becoming a reality.
“Graham and I are both teachers in the Foothills School Division and I had been discussing trying to get this project going with Darcy Finlay, who works for the Town,” said Hoover. “And he put me in contact with Graham who had been quite a bit further along. Graham, Steve and I came down in the fall with Gord (White) from the Town and came with a couple of discs and tried to make up a course.
“Then it was kind of dormant with the whole COVID crisis and Graham did just a ton behind the scenes, working his butt off.”
Hoover, who grew up in Okotoks and lives just south of the course in the Woodhaven community, said the river valley location is a bit of a hidden gem.
“It’s a really beautiful spot, my wife and I actually live on the escarpment now just on the top of the bridge, my father and mother-in-law live 20 houses down,” he said. “This is kind of unused space down here, there’s all these beautiful cottonwoods, it’s a huge recreation area that’s kind of left to overgrow and disc golf is not only a great sport, but it gives us an opportunity to come down here and make this a high use space.
“It’s just great for the community of Woodhaven, great for the community of Okotoks and then this space with the traffic coming in here, with the interest, it’s just going to grow in keeping it a nice area, it’s not going to be forgotten and it’s bringing attention to the river valley.”
Local residents had approached the Town in 2019 regarding the creation of a course which in turn aligned with the 2019 capital project of a day use area in the Sheep River park.
Campbell, who designed the course, said there was another potential location bandied about in the Cimarron area by the mountain bike trails.
“This site worked better for the Town and it flows really nicely at this course,” he said. “I think we’ve got some really nice holes and good variety, some short, some long, some hard, some easy and this is a nice little site.”
The activity follows many of the same rules as golf with flying discs used in lieu of clubs and balls. One stroke is counted per throw with each hole finished by throwing the disc into an elevated metal basket. Rather than a 300-yard drive on a long fairway, disc golf enthusiasts will have to use precision to navigate through the nine holes at the Okotoks course ranging from 55 to 140 metres in distance.
“I know in phys-ed when we come back, hopefully in scenario one (in classrooms) – these are the types of things we will be doing,” Hoover said. “Where there are individual pursuits, they’re accessible, you don’t need a bunch of whole new equipment or expensive equipment.
“You can just grab a disc, stay distant from your friends and go out and have a really authentic experience.”
Campbell said disc golf is an activity everyone can enjoy, regardless of age or experience.
“My son, who’s three plays, my father in law who is somewhere north of 60 plays and it’s a game for everybody,” Campbell said. “It’s so simple, it’s so affordable, you don’t need a tee time, you don’t need fancy clothes, you just come down and throw stuff at stuff.
“I think with the way people get out and recreate in their own town, there couldn’t be a better year for this to happen.”
Use of the disc golf course will be free and available from 5 a.m. to midnight, normal park hours.
For more information go to Okotoks.ca/discgolf