It was back in March of 2012 that Granite Falls Revitalization President Steve Virnig introduced the idea of a disc golf course in Granite Falls. A little over one year later and the dream has become a reality.
"That's the key," said Virnig. "If you don't have a vision, it'll never happen."
This past weekend Virnig was joined by fellow community and disc golf enthusiasts along the banks of the Minnesota River in Rice Park to install the remaining course signage at the affectionately named River's Edge Disc Golf Course.
It was at an InCommons Listening session, funded by the Bush Foundation and facilitated by CURE, where Virnig offered the suggestion a year ago. The event was hosted as brain storming sessions amongst area residents in an effort promote community interaction and development. By the time the meeting was through, Virnig had formed the basis for a committee.
Conversation and networking ensued leading to the next big development in the form of a Blue Cross Blue Shield "Connect for Health Challenge" grant that was submitted by CURE and included requests for projects in Granite Falls and Montevideo. The grant provided the funds GFRR needed to create the nine-goal disc course, including concrete throwing slabs and individual tee and "welcome" course signage. The entirety of the project, when all said and done, will cost $6,000.
"Now that we have the signage up it's going to get more attention, and I think we'll see a lot more people enjoying the park," he said.
Virnig would team up with Southern Minnesota Disc Golf Association webmaster Derek Tonn to measure and map the course. Tonn, through his business Map Formation LLC, would also be tapped to create the signage.
Even with the grant dollars in hand, the level of community involvement that would finally make the course a reality grew. The city's public works crew chipped in and installed the nine goals, Granite Redi-Mix was hired to pour concrete tee slabs and local high school freshman, Josh Hoernemann, organized the installation of welcome, rule and tee signs as a part of his Eagle Scout project.
Hoernemann said that he had been trying to figure out a good idea for an Eagle Scout project when he read about plans to build the course in the Advocate Tribune. "I saw something in paper about the course coming around and I was like: Hey, can I get in on this? 'Cause this could make a great project," he recalled.
Hoernemann said that the idea came from a visit to another disc golf course located out of the area. The signage at that park was confusing, and ended up causing him to play the course backward. As a part of the project, the soon to be sophomore, organized a work committee of a dozen who he subsequently teamed with to complete the project.
Page 2 of 2 - "I just jumped right in," he said. "And here we are now and it's done."
To date there are roughly 200 disc golf courses throughout Minnesota, including a number of recent additions to Minnesota River Valley. Just this past year courses were installed in Clarkfield, Montevideo and Appleton.
The game is enjoyed for its mass, multi-generational appeal, for both novices and disc golf experts alike, as a wonderful excuse to get outdoors. Pros can have as many as 16 to 20 discs in a single set (just like having different golf clubs), but Virnig said it's no shame playing the course with just one.
In the coming months a series of events will be held in effort to spur interests in disc golf. This Saturday, in conjunction with Community Ed, beginner disc golf lessons are being offered free of charge at the park at 10:00 a.m. at the same time as the Kiwanis Fishing Derby. Discs will be on hand and available to newcomers.
On June 22, a Grand Opening Event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. And later on in the summer, at a yet to be determined date, Virnig hopes to organize a tournament involving a round of disc golf at both the Montevideo and Granite Falls courses.
Virnig says the course is totally complete, save for the final to-do's on the courses only professional-level tee. The starting point is forty feet up atop a gneiss outcrop on the east end of the park, where Virnig said steps needed to be carved into the cliff and covered with pea rock to allow for a suitable pathway.
Already there has been a noticeable increase of traffic and the park ,and through online social networking and the formation of disc golf leagues such as that currently in the works with the Granite Falls Lions, it is a trend that Virnig expects to continue.
"People would really be surprised to know just how far people will travel to try a new course," said Virnig. "And one thing I personally like about disc golf is that it's free."
Discs are available for rental and sale at Frogs on the Footbridge. More information can be found about the course on its facebook page: River's Edge Disc Golf Course.