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Disc Golf Course Addition at Trail of Tears Park

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Work is set to begin on an 18-hole disc golf course at Hopkinsville’s Trail of Tears Park and adjacent Cherokee Park in a project that will bring together history education and recreation opportunities, allowing more visitors to experience the park and to learn about and appreciate the tremendous sacrifice made by the Cherokee Nation along the Trail of Tears.

Parks and Recreation used input from several organizations to adjust the course layout and incorporate recommendations during this spring process.  City officials sought and obtained approvals from the National Park Service, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, the Kentucky Heritage Council in Frankfort, and the Hopkinsville Trail of Tears Commission.

Due to the important historical significance of the Trail of Tears Park, the Hopkinsville Parks and Recreation Department spent the spring sharing the preliminary course layout and soliciting input and approvals from the various Indian tribal representatives as well as local, state and national officials.

All of the course layout will be located away from the cemetery portion of the park that serves as the final resting places of Cherokee Chiefs Fly Smith and Whitepath who died during the Trail of Tears march.  The course development will include informative historical signage on each tee box sharing the tragic story of the Cherokee Nation’s forced march westward from 1838-1850, which became known as the Trail of Tears.  Including the tee box signage allows the Trail of Tears history to reach a new audience as many visitors from the region come to play the new disc golf course.  While it is expected to draw several thousand visitors annually to the park, the disc golf course would be closed during the annual Hopkinsville Pow Wow each September.

Disc golf is a fast-growing U.S. and international sport where players walk from hole to hole tossing specialized plastic discs from a five by 12 foot tee pad to a metal chain target measuring 30 inches wide by 5 foot tall.  Scoring is similar to regular golf with the goal to get the disc from tee to basket in as few throws as possible.  No fees are charged to play on disc golf courses and the game can be played with as few as one $10 disc.  The sport is among the fastest-growing in the world with over 5,000 courses in the USA and 6,000 worldwide.  According to the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), the number of disc golf course grew nearly 50% from 2008 to 2013.

The City of Hopkinsville’s Sports Tourism Committee identified adding a new 18-hold disc golf course as the second item on the group’s report to City Council in 2016. Part of the attraction of a new disc golf course was the affordability of the project.  The new Trail of Tears course is projected to come in at budget for design and construction.  Professional course designer, H.B. Clark of Bluegrass Disc Golf in Bowling Green, was contracted to select an appropriate Hopkinsville site and his study recommended the Trail of Tears and Cherokee park layout.

As with most disc golf course designs, Clark has crafted the 8,000 foot long championship caliber course to minimize disruption to the local landscape.  All course tee boxes are being built above grade to minimize any ground disturbance.  The course baskets are also being installed above ground.

Hopkinsville’s DeBow Park hosts a nine-hole course, built in 2008, similar to a traditional golf “par 3”course.  The short course at DeBow Park was also designed by Clark.  Disc Golf has continued to grow in popularity locally, with 18-hole courses coming on in recent years in Oak Grove, Clarksville, Madisonville, Murray, Paris TN and Martin TN.  Bowling Green is home to eight courses and hosts the PDGA Amateur Championships for over 800 players each April.

It is anticipated the new Trail of Tears course would host several one-day tournaments throughout the year that would attract regional and national players to Hopkinsville.  The tournament guests would also have the opportunity to learn more about the Trail of Tears history during competition.

The Trail of Tears course layout is viewable on the Parks and Recreation website at www.hoptownrec.com.  For additional questions or comments about the new Trail of Tears disc golf course, contact Parks and Recreation at 270-887-4290 or email info-parks-and-rec@hopkinsvilleky.us.