Dan Nicholas mini golf must be accessible to handicapped or shut down

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 20, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — The county parks department is trying to raise $225,000 to make the miniature golf course at Dan Nicholas Park fully accessible.
Right now, it’s virtually impossible to guide a wheelchair or mid-size stroller along the course’s concrete sidewalks, which are less than 2 feet wide. The holes are surrounded with bricks and sometimes blocked by obstacles.
“One of the most important pieces of this is being able to provide those with disabilities the opportunity to recreate at Dan Nicholas Park,” said Don Bringle, director of the Rowan County Parks Department.
The other most important piece? If the miniature golf course isn’t rebuilt, it will have to shut down next spring.
The course was created in the 1970s, before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 set accessibility requirements, so it has been “grandfathered” into compliance.
But President Barack Obama announced revisions to the requirements in July 2010, and now all miniature golf courses must meet them by March 2012. At least 50 percent of all holes on a course must be accessible and form a consecutive route that enters and exits at the same spot.
The county parks department wants to demolish the existing course and build a new ADA-compliant one.
Bringle said county commissioners told the department last year it could solicit donations from foundations, businesses and individuals. So far, it has received commitments totaling $31,000 of the $225,000 goal.
The parks department has been trying to rebuild the miniature golf course for the past few years, Bringle said. Last year, a request made to the county for capital project funds didn’t survive budget cuts.
“The county commissioners previously have been gracious enough to provide funding for sidewalks to make the rest of what we have accessible,” Bringle said.
Aside from the miniature golf course, Dan Nicholas Park already meets the new ADA standards, he said. The park even has a fully accessible playground right next to the course.
Once the money is raised, the department will take bids for the project. Bringle said the newly designed course will be built on its current footprint, which must still fit 36 holes divided into two course paths.
“People have asked me, ‘Why don’t you just build one?’ ” Bringle said. “We have about 35,000 people playing miniature golf in a 12-month period. I don’t think just 18 holes will work well.”
The park makes about $65,000 annually from the course, charging $2 for one game or $3 for two. If it is not redesigned, that revenue will be lost along with miniature golf at Dan Nicholas Park.
But Bringle said he doesn’t think that will happen.
“I feel good about us being able to do this,” Bringle said. “The community has always been supportive of our parks.”
The Margaret C. Woodson Foundation has awarded a $30,000 grant, and the Civitan Club of Salisbury has given $1,000. Cheerwine and Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast also have committed to donate.
Donors will receive awards according to four giving levels from $100 to $20,000, including free games of golf, plaque recognition and hole naming rights. Course naming rights will be granted for $100,000.
For more information or to donate, call 704-216-7816.