Melissa Milligan is working hard to get a disc golf course up and running in Port Hardy.
Not familiar with the sport? Disc golf is a flying disc sport in which players throw a disc at a target; it is played using rules similar to golf and is usually played on a course with nine or 18 holes. Players complete a hole by throwing a disc from a tee pad or area toward a target, throwing again from where the previous throw landed, until the target is reached. Usually, the number of throws a player uses to reach each target is tallied (often in relation to par), and players seek to complete each hole in the lowest number of total throws.
As for why Milligan first became interested in creating a course here in the North Island, it’s because she is currently completing her MBA with Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and “One of the main things you do with an MBA rather than write a thesis is to do a consulting project,” she said, adding that “usually you work with businesses in the community and volunteer your time that way, but I figured seeing as how I’m in Port Hardy currently [due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down in-person classes], I can do something to support my hometown.”
She was originally looking at various recreational ideas that are held outdoors, something that you can play while still practicing social distancing, when she remembered she had played disc golf a dozen or so times before, and found it to be “really enjoyable” and “really easy to play, you don’t have to be an experienced player to pick up a disc and start playing, so I thought it was a great idea, and while I needed to do something for my MBA, it’s also a way to give back to my community.”
After speaking with Port Hardy councillor Janet Dorward, Milligan took the disc golf course idea to a Parks, Recreation, Arts and Culture Committee meeting, where she did a 10 minute power point presentation and answered any questions they had about it.
“They were in support of it and they liked the idea,” confirmed Milligan, who noted the Port Hardy Rotary Club then donated $3,500, enough to buy all the materials needed to build a nine hole course.
With the money to build in hand, the next step was to find a spot for the actual disc golf course. Milligan thought the wooded area near Storey’s Beach, which is on Kwakiutl First Nation land, would be a great spot for it, so she approached the Kwakiutl and they went back and forth on the area, with the First Nation deciding they wanted more community involvement before agreeing to anything, as the wooded area is used by dog walkers and people having picnics.
Needing more proof that a disc golf course is something the community actually wanted, Milligan started a community engagement survey through the District of Port Hardy and the Kwakiutl First Nation.
As for the results from the survey? “The interesting thing I found is that over 61 per cent have played disc golf before, and 31 per cent of those people are avid players,” said Milligan. “There was also another 25 per cent who have never played but are interested in playing.”
138 people in total took the survey, with 94 per cent voting yes they are in support of a disc golf course in Port Hardy.
There was also an alternative area suggested, namely, a wooded area (cougar trail) on Elk Drive. “If Storey’s Beach is a no go, I think that would be a really neat second spot,” added Milligan.
While she is still considering the Storey’s Beach area, she noted there were a few comments saying “it would be better if it was located in town.”
As for Elk Drive area, she’s not sure who’s land it is, so she’s going to have to talk to the district and find out the feasibility of that space before doing anything else. “The next step is to engage the Kwakiutl with the survey results for Storey’s Beach (they are engaging their own people with a survey separately), while also engaging with the district about the Elk Drive spot as well… It’s really just a matter of finding a place to put the course, the finances are already in the bag to support all the needed materials.”
If you’re interested in getting involved with the disc golf project, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.