We’re one big step closer as I now have a verbal agreement to reopen Black Mouse. I spoke to SLVUSD superintendent Chris Schiermeyer earlier this week, and these are the two main takeaways from our discussion:
After sharing the steps and conditions he and I had agreed upon with the other members of the SLVUSD board of directors, they all felt comfortable reopening the course assuming the steps are taken and the conditions not violated. The details of our proposal, which were favorably commented on on the Black Mouse FB page) were detailed in my last update.
The water treatment project, which is ongoing and involves the leach fields near the course, requires state approval. The process may not be completed for another six months, and the course can’t open until that happens.
The first condition, and the next step for those who want to help make this happen, is to form the San Lorenzo Valley Disc Golf Club. After that we can get to work on the other steps required to get the course back open. If you want to help launch the club (or just join the club), please complete this short form.
A couple other tidbits to share: Del P. suggested the possibility of relocating the holes closest to the aggrieved neighbors to the area where holes 5-9 were initially located- behind current hole 5, along the road that goes deeper into Fall Creek. We’ll be looking into this possibility as it could accomplish two things- moving play further from residential properties and getting people to park in the elementary and high school lots rather than along the road to the middle school lot.
Finally, I can’t share details yet, but we identified another possible location for another course down the line. Stay tuned!
I met with with new SLVUSD superintendent Chris Schiermeyer on Tuesday, July 13th, and came away feeling very encouraged and optimistic that we can forge a path to reopening Black Mouse. It’ll take some work and a sincere commitment to abide by all school rules, but I think it can be done.
I’ve listed a summary of the salient information Chris shared in brief bullet points, followed by what we would need to do, and what comes next.
To start on a positive note, Chris said more than once that there is not one single board member who is firmly opposed to reopening the course. He also said he is aware of how many local families use and highly value the course, including several key district employees.
The main reason the course has remained closed without discussion for the past six months has been work on the wastewater treatment system. Nitrogen levels are not within state regulations, and they need to redo the ponds and work on the leach fields. He also said they have a plan that once approved by the state should not take long to execute and complete.
There are indeed homeowners who live near Black Mouse determined to permanently close the course, and these people have supplied district officials with pictures and video that clearly show disc golfers violating the rules that prohibit smoking, alcohol, drug use, and use of the course during school hours.
The main reason the district would consider closing the course permanently is the drain on their resources; specifically administrators having to listen to and respond to complaints about disc golfers, and maintenance staff having to clean up trash and even feces(?!) left by disc golfers who park along the entrance road to the middle school parking lot.
I want to emphasize this point: Chris said most complaints involve people parking where they shouldn’t, outside the middle school gate, and loitering loudly before and after rounds, then leaving garbage there.
Someone retrieved “4 or 5” baskets claiming he paid for them himself. Does anyone know who this might be?
After Chris shared his list of issues and concerns about Black Mouse I presented some possible solutions. He liked all of them and even suggested one himself. The total list is as follows:
Form a more official club, with a board of directors, officers, regular meetings, and a charter than includes the primary objectives of providing recreational disc golf opportunities in the SLV areas and maintaining a good relationship with the school district. This club would be the official link between the district and the disc golf community, and would be ultimately responsible for ensuring all disc golfers obey school ground rules.
Change all online course listings. We need to make sure all rules are clearly stated in all course directory listings (or have the course removed from all listings), and make sure everything possible is done to deter players from parking in the wrong places.
Create and install clear, unavoidable signage placed throughout the course that make the rules clear, as well as the fact that the district, school, and club all insist upon their strict adherence. Also, we need to fund the signage ourselves.
Create a volunteer schedule to occasionally patrol the course and pick up trash at the end of weekends so school maintenance staff doesn’t show up Monday to a mess made (presumably) by disc golfers. This one was Chris’s suggestion. Hopefully we can change this disgusting practice by visitors; if we don’t, the course will be closed again soon after reopening anyway. But we should be willing to monitor the situation closely and clean up if necessary.
Perhaps most importantly, those of us considered to be Black Mouse locals or regulars need to set the example in following all rules, and politely but firmly remind anyone we see that it’s either follow the rules or the course gets closed. This doesn’t mean “being discreet.” It means No Smoking, No Drugs, No Alcohol, No Playing During School Hours, and No Parking by the Middle School. Period.
This is the path to reopening Black Mouse.
I agreed to let the Superintendent know if the disc golf community agrees to these conditions, after which he would work to get a similar commitment from the board of directors.
So that’s where we’re at. I’d like to hear from y’all. What do you think? Can we do this?
Black Mouse Disc Golf Course remains closed, but the jury (in this case the SLV Unified School District) is still out as to its ultimate fate. In my latest exchange with the soon-to-be-retired Superintendent, she states that the septic/leachfield renovation that involves part of the course will continue until at least the end of the year, and the board does not plan to address the status of the course until after that time.
My response was to respectfully suggest that we could be using the time that class is not in session (the summer, now) to work on a mutually agreeable reopening plan. I also hinted that we may start to present our petition for reopening through the press.
I then sent them the 327 testimonials received through this site (as of 6/08/21), along with a few that I hope will catch their attention- including one from a person whose home borders the course! Thanks to everyone who took the time to submit something.
I am including the last exchange mentioned above as the rest of this post. Please contact me directly with any questions.
Jack- I am returning your email in regards to the reinstatement of the Disc Golf Course on the SLV tri-campus. As you know, district facilities are prioritized based on student needs and student usage. The SLV Board is waiting until the repairs to the tri-campus septic system and leach field are complete before they are prepared to discuss the Disc Golf Course. The board’s priority is to provide appropriate school facilities for all students before they address the recreational needs or areas of the school grounds. The repair to the leach field and septic system have an estimated completion date of the end of Nov. or Dec. 2021. However, as in all construction projects related to the public schools, the district waits through the Ca.Dept. State Architect’s (DSA) approval process during various phases of the project, so the timelines are somewhat unpredictable. The Superintendent’s Administrative Assistant will notify you when the item is on the Board Agenda. Best regards- Laurie
Dr. Laurie Bruton, SLVUSD Superintendent
Dr. Bruton, Thank you for taking time to keep me informed. I’m happy to at least have something to share with all who come to me for news. If I had any leverage I’d push back a little on the logic that the septic work needs to be done before discussions can begin, and add that it seems like working on a plan now, while school is not in session, makes the most sense regardless of when the course might be able to reopen. As a parent of two students at the school I am sensitive to everything the SLVUSD board is juggling right now and accordingly have taken a patient, passive approach in advocating for reinstating the course. Knowing that it may be another six months or more before the matter is even discussed, though, we may need to try a bit more of the ‘squeaky wheel’ approach. I will start by sharing testimonials with the board shortly, but will likely eventually share our situation with local media as well, just to keep the issue active in the community’s collective mind. I am confident that we (the local disc golf community) can commit to steps that will more than satisfy the board that reopening Black Mouse is the right decision- and fund the costs of those steps. All we need is a bit of time together to work it out. Can you please send me the name and contact info of the superintendent’s admin you mentioned so I can check in from time to time? Wishing you nothing but the best with your next adventure, Jack Trageser
Dr. Bruton, As promised I’m attaching a PDF with 320-plus testimonials regarding Black Mouse (I cc’d Ms. Berquist as well). I can come discuss the issue with any board member at her/his convenience. I’ve pasted a few below that jumped out at me- particularly one submitted by a neighbor whose property borders the course. Virginia Justus, Boulder Creek- “My 12 year old son and his friends have recently got into disc golf. He and his friends are middle schoolers in the SLVUSD. It is a great way to get kids out and away from screens, having fun in the fresh air with friends.” Brian, Felton- “This course brings healthy exercise, time in nature, great memories with friends, and a place to gather with community. I think it is incredible the youth were involved with planting the course. We miss this course dearly.” Alaina Maloney, Felton- “Black Mouse is 1 mile from home. Its a beautiful and friendly course. It allows me to connect with nature & our community while also spending quality time in nature playing a sport i have loved for 25 years. Pls keep our small home town course in play. It’s brings us together. Keeps us Santa Cruz mtn strong.” Lawrence M. Valle, Ben Lomond- “This course was so lovely when it was open to play. Takes less than a few minutes to travel to on hwy9, and the whole family can have a good time. My kids love the hiking, natural obstacles. Please bring Black Mouse Back!” Robert Green, Brookdale- “I helped run the disc golf club for SLV High school as well as nature academy at the Middle School. It was one of the best things in life to help encourage individual students to better their game. We helped teach proper respect and grow character through failures and success of the game. Ive seen these kida grow into fine young adults who still enjoy the game. Please bring back the Mouse for the sake of the kids. Its a almost free 365 days a year sport . Valuable to any community but especially to our isolated valley with not alot of things for our kids to do.” Jesse Schmidt, Felton- “It is an activity for all with a very low entry-level cost. That means people of all income levels can enjoy it. Of the courses in the area it is by far my favorite.” Patrick Salibi, 7292 Hacienda Way, Felton- “I’ve always found the disc golf community to be respectful of the school grounds, as well as the neighboring community. I live in the house on Hacienda that is arguably most affected by the increased parking from disc golfers and have no issue with seeing this course reinstated.” Moana Whipple, Felton, CA- “Black Mouse is a gem of a course. It is short enough that my husband and I can bring our daughter to hike with us through the course, and we love every inch of it. Black Mouse teaches the novice player the essential desperation of trees, brings awareness to the existence of poison oak, and humbles anyone who thinks a putter surely cannot roll so very far. It would be devastating to lose such a beautiful and creative course forever.” All the best, Jack Trageser
The school district made the decision to pull the baskets out when fires caused the evacuation of the entire valley and resources were stretched thin. Since that time the district decided to undertake a project involving the same land on which the part of the course sits, so the course remained closed. And it has yet to be reopened, due in part to lingering effects of the pandemic and objections to the course’s existence from homeowners whose properties border several holes.
I last spoke with Dr. Sue Bruton, SLVUSD superintendent, two weeks ago, and she informed me that the school board will be officially discussing the fate of the course at an upcoming board meeting. It would seem that the time has come to make sure they understand how much Black Mouse means to so many people, especially residents who treasure a free source of recreation close to home.
If you want to see Black Mouse back in play, please help out by answering the call as outlined on the homepage of this website. Post a testimonial; contact Dr. Bruton (respectfully); show up at the board meeting when they discuss the course. If we all speak up, it should be an easy decision for them.