Victory: Hilltop Lake Park's Animals Saved as Disc Golf Course is Rejected

Victory: Hilltop Lake Park's Animals Saved as Disc Golf Course is Rejected

This week, we’re happy to announce the rejection of a disc golf course installation at Hilltop Lake Park in Richmond, California, which would have displaced and killed wild animals. We’re so grateful to our devoted supporters and to the park’s dedicated human neighbors who fought steadfastly for the peaceful future of this park on behalf of many species.

The 36-acre low-lying park cannot be seen from most of the roadways surrounding it, and offers a peaceful place for nature lovers, bird watchers and dog walkers to enjoy when they need an escape. More importantly, the lake in the center is surrounded by reeds, willows and olive trees, while eucalyptus and pine trees grow outside the path that circles  it. They all exist together to provide vital habitat for wild animals who are otherwise surrounded by an unforgiving urban landscape. Squirrels, skunks, jays, crayfish and many other wild animals rely on this space. 

In October 2020, over 5,000 In Defense of Animals supporters wrote to Richmond City Council members and Richmond Parks and Landscaping Division calling on them to stop clearcutting at Hilltop Lake Park. After our alert launched, Mayor Tom Butt went to the park entrance the very next day and took photos, emailing us that “the park was fine.” We wrote back, assuring him that it wasn’t and offered to walk around it with him. Our offer was ignored. The park has suffered repeated clearcutting now for several years, most recently in preparation for this disc golf course, which our local supporters took action to help block.

One location in park before, during, and after clearcutting.

In March, The Richmond Standard revealed plans to construct a disc golf course in the park, which was being relentlessly pushed on Richmond residents by the East Bay Disc Golf Club, which was pretending to bestow upon them a gift, while fully deaf to what Richmond residents wanted — their park left alone.

Work had already begun without the Richmond City Council’s knowledge or approval, except for possibly Mayor Tom Butt and his son, Andrew, who is a disc golfer active with the East Bay Disc Golf Club. Several members of the Council, including Nat Bates, Eduardo Martinez, and Melvin Willis were furious and ordered the construction halted. A vote on Wednesday, May 5, by the Richmond Recreation and Parks Commission made the halt permanent and now the park can begin to heal.

Finally our voices were heard and this peaceful oasis for animals and local people has been protected. We are relieved that this important habitat was saved and grateful for all our local supporters who spoke on behalf of wild animals, including our own Anita Carswell, who represented the views of thousands of Bay Area members in several meetings, including Wednesday’s meeting when the vote took place.

Disc golf is played by throwing discs at high speeds into metal baskets. The course would have required installing multiple cement “tees,” baskets and signs, in addition to constructing stairs in some places. Many of these installations would have been built less than 100 feet from nearby homes, creating a hazard and a nuisance for residents.

Disc golf courses have been associated with soil erosion and compaction, destruction of undergrowth and vegetation, and harm to trees; even small nicks made by discs and other damage can kill them.

Animals were an afterthought, and park users, and local residents were not considered or consulted, even though they would be most impacted by players and high-speed flying discs, which have been known to seriously injure people and spark lawsuits.

Richmond is a Guardian City where animals are cherished as more than mere property, so this decision to reject the disc golf course is in line with previous Richmond City Council decisions. 

Nat Bates and Tom Butt, along with the entire Richmond City Council, elevated the status of animals beyond that of mere objects by voting in favor of Richmond becoming a Guardian City in 2012. Their forward-thinking pledge a decade ago is more important than ever because habitat destruction has led to a mass extinction crisis. 

We’re thrilled to see Richmond, once again, do the right thing. While we are deactivating our alert about the disc golf course, we are still vigilant about the clearcuts that have been occuring and will be seeking assurances that we have seen the last of them.

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