Disc golf course rebuild at Lake Cunningham clears trails for others

After the park reopened at Lake Cunningham a year ago, they began a redesign and rebuild of the popular disc golf course
A metro park in need of a little tlc is finally getting some attention and it's paying off big time.
Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 10:49 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Creating outdoor places for people to enjoy is integral to continued growth in the metro. The huge River Front development and Gene Leahy Mall are examples.

But finding room to explore in suburban parks can be tough, as groups vie for precious ground.

The solution is to work together since one person’s fairway is another’s hiking trail.

”The parks see how much people enjoy the trails as well as the pavement, so it’s a win-win for everybody,” Greater Omaha Trail Runners (GOATz) president Ron Ruhs said. “When the disc golfers and the mountain bikers and the trail runners all work together, that solidifies and shows we can work together for the same goal.”

It’s a trend at smaller suburban parks around the country. Trail enthusiasts need precious space and disc golfers create it.

“When you have a more wild atmosphere like this, there are areas of the park people can’t get back to,” professional disc golfer Christopher Oien said. “But once we go back in and put fairways in, which are pretty big, it creates a lot of opportunities for people to get in places in parks they haven’t been able to before and I think that’s kind of cool.”

After the park reopened at Lake Cunningham a year ago, they began a redesign and rebuild of the popular disc golf course. In turn, clearing out years of overgrowth created new sections for running and hiking, too.

“This spring we really cleared out the back nine,” Lake Cunningham executive director Brook Bench said. “We’ve been mowing it, grooming it, doing tree work to where we’ll have the full 18-hole course the way it used to be, but then again having new features, new signage, concrete pads, and taking it to the next level because we really want to make it a world-class course.”

Oien has been a fixture in the Omaha disc golf course scene for much of his life. He was a co-designer when the Cunningham course was first built 25 years ago, and today is designing and building the new course, where disc golfers and trail runners maintain the grounds side-by-side with the support of the Lake Cunningham Trust.

“Working with those people definitely just creates more opportunity for things for people to do,” Oien said. “Because this park is just full of something to do now.”

“I think a lot of people don’t realize how much cool stuff we have in the Nebraska and Iowa area right around the metro,” Ruhs said. “(You can) be 20 minutes from your house and do all that, and the mountain bikers and the golfers, they want the same thing you do.”

Another thing mutually beneficial will be the creation of a new smartphone app for the golf course. When unveiled, it will show fly-by drone video of each hole, and GPS locations that hikers and trail runners can tap into as well.

There are long-term plans to create a new mountain biking area on the north section of the park, where there are horse riding and other hiking trails as well.

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