Tree fungus threatens dozens of trees, closes popular disc golf course

MUSKEGON, Mich. - Fear of oak wilt, a tree fungus that eats trees from the inside out, has unexpectedly closed the McGraft Park disc golf course.

Chains and baskets associated with the sport were removed before any signs were posted regarding the indefinite closure. Kevin Santos with the City of Muskegon says they shut down the course to protect the oak tree population from being damaged by players' discs.

"It's a tough thing to do, because it's such a heavily used park for disc golf, and we didn't make this decision lightly," Santos said.

Santos says the course was closed because discs had the potential for damaging the park's red and black oak population, leaving them susceptible to the spores of oak wilt, which spreads on the backs of certain beetle species.

"The disease hits the trees and decimates them," Santos said. "There's treatment options available, but they're really expensive and there's no guarantee that the options work. So we're doing our due diligence to protect the trees."

Just down the road, park rangers say roughly 400 trees have been treated or removed over the last five years at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park because of oak wilt, which the city hopes to prevent from spreading any farther north.

One disc golfer says players were blindsided by the decision to close the disc golf course.

"I agree we should protect these trees, but I don't believe that disc golf is going to be a threat," said Cara Schrader, a disc golfer with the McGraft Park Ladies Disc Golf League.

Schrader added the sturdy oaks have been able to handle the impact from discs since the course was installed back in 1999. People have voiced their frustrations on social media, most of them upset that the disc golf community was not notified about the indefinite closure of the course.

"We love this sport. It's a lifestyle, and it's not going away," Schrader said. "So we need to come up with a solution to benefit the community and our trees."

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