Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
A tale as old as time — may actually be getting a new chapter in March as the Franklin Town Council is considering a plan to approve a non-invasive recreation plan for the Whitmire Property in town.
The Franklin Disc Golf Club, working with Town Council member Mike Lewis and Town Manager Summer Woodard, presented the board with a proposal Monday night to construct a disc golf course on Whitmire Property this spring for public use. The town council, who all reacted favorably, decided to review plans over the coming weeks and take a vote to approve the measure during their March meeting.
For the last five years or so, town leaders have touched on the fate of the Whitmire Property a little each year. Typically around budget time, a member of the board brings up the property and what should happen next. It was not until 2017 that the town made the move to assess the property for actual potential future use when they approved $13,800 to be spent for a survey of the property done by WR-Martin Management Consulting out of Asheville to develop a plan for the property.
The Whitmire Property sits just under 13 acres and was purchased for $1,575,000 in November 2004 by the town of Franklin. At the time, town leaders wanted to construct a new town hall on the property, but that idea was later scrapped and town hall remained on Main Street instead leaving the property to go unused for more than a decade. The property was last appraised at $2.15 million in August 2008.
Community groups have presented plans for the property for the last several years — typically always for some form of recreational use, however beyond listening to presentations, the town has been reluctant to take action.
The 2017 assessment from WR-Martin Management Consulting found that a passive recreational and/or cultural use would be the best use of the property based on a list of factors the board asked the consultants to consider.
The Franklin Disc Golf club presented a plan to construct a non-invasive 9-hole course around the property — which would need little work aside from purchasing the baskets used for holes and established tees.
Disc golf is a flying disc sport in which players throw a disc at a target using rules similar to golf. It is usually played on a course with 9 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.
Woodard informed the board that the cost of the proposal would be around $8,000, which she said can be funded through the town’s Pickin’ on the Square budget which went unused due to the pandemic.
“I think this is just the beginning of a multi-use recreational opportunity for this property,” said Mayor Bob Scott.
Council member David Cullpepper agreed with the mayor and said he sees the disc golf course as being the first step in developing the property for public use with things such as picnic tables and maybe a future amphitheater.
Council member Dinah Mashburn said that she supported the idea, but asked for a month to review the plans and to see if any other groups come forward with any additional ideas for the property that would work in conjunction with the proposed disc golf course.
Members of the disc golf club said that once equipment is ordered, it would take around a month to receive the needed items, with installation taking about two weeks. If the board approves the project in March as expected, the disc golf course will be ready for public use by mid-April.