Person of the Week
John Williams: Par for the Course
Through his role as vice-chair of the Chester Park & Recreation Commission, John Williams is working to improve the amenities for all ages at North Quarter Park. (Photo courtesy of John Williams )
What does a park look like in your mind’s eye: a playscape for youngsters to climb all over, maybe a basketball court for teens, or, if you live in Chester, a nine-hole disc golf course? That new golf course is what John Williams, vice chair of Chester’s Park & Recreation Commission, wants people to know about.
Disc golf? Forget the bag of clubs and the little white golf balls. If you’ve ever thrown a Frisbee, you already have the makings of a disc golf player.
The object of the game is to toss the disc in a basket, usually mounted on a post some four feet off the ground. Holes, still so-called though there are no holes involved, are generally par threes starting at, well yes, the tee, in this case a level square marked off by railroad ties.
One toss won’t get the disc into the baskets; holes are spaced at the Chester course between 180 and 300 feet apart. For serious disc golfer players, the equipment has gotten more specialized. There are, for instance, tee shot discs, so constructed to make them fly long distances down the course. John says there will be some discs available at the Chester course for those who want to play
The nine-hole disc golf course should be ready by mid-July. John explains that North Quarter Park has needed renovation for some time, but plans were put on hold during debate on the proposal, since voted down by the town’s Board of Finance, to construct a new library in the park. Subsequently, John notes, funds were appropriated for improvements to the park.
“There was renewed interest in upgrading the park, doing more with the land and attracting people of all ages. That is the beauty of disc golf,” Johns says.
He adds that disc golf will preserve much of the natural appearance of the park.
“We will retain the tree canopy; the course is really like a glade. Part of the appeal is that disc golf uses the terrain like sand traps and ponds do on a golf course. You have to avoid the trees,” which will remain on the course, he points out.
The Chester course won’t be the first in this area. Guilford, East Haddam, and Killingworth already have disc golf facilities. According to John, the game, developed in its present form in the 1960s, is particularly popular in the south and west.
Retired contractor Randy Netsch and his wife Liz, Chester’s director of Parks & Recreation, first discovered disc golf visiting a daughter in Virginia. Randy Netsch, according to John, has been instrumental not only in constructing the disc golf course, but in the entire renovation of North Quarter Park.
“I want to shine a light on Randy. He has given so much of his time and knowledge,” John says.
Current improvements for North Quarter Park, along with renovation of the basketball court, also call for the relocation of the parking area farther away from the playscape.
Long-range ideas that are not part of the current plan, John says, include a drinking fountain in the park, since there is already a water line, and upgrading the nature trails. Ideas that are perhaps even farther in the future envision a viewing platform over Chester Creek and a trail along the old trolley line that would enable walkers to go through the woods to the center of town.
John has been a member of the Parks & Recreation Commission for 15 years, serving for much of that time as chair. He got involved because his two daughters, now grown, were involved in programs like summer day camp.
“A friend asked me if I was interested. I wanted to be involved in the larger community, I love the outdoors, and being on the commission wouldn’t involve specialized knowledge like being on the Board of Finance,” he says.
A 30-year resident of Chester, John first discovered the town when visiting his mother who then lived in Deep River. He remembers lunch at the long-gone but not forgotten Robbie’s and says he was always charmed by the stone wall in the center of downtown with Chester written on it in white stones. He has lived in the same house for all those 30 years, now with his partner Ivey Gianetti, a massage therapist. His home has also been his office, from which he runs his graphic design business.
He hadn’t originally planned on a career in graphic design. He dropped out of Indiana University to become a musician. He wanted to write music and play his guitar, but took a few freelance art and design jobs at the same time. He already was familiar with the field. Both his parents were artists and designers.
“I grew up in the process of creating art,” he says.
His business grew.
“Word got out,” John says. “I was getting calls to do freelance design and production.”
He enjoys working with clients, trying to use his skills to communicate their message, both in terms of graphics and now also doing some copywriting.
At the moment John is designing signage to accompany the disc golf course. Commercial companies that make the equipment for the game also make signs, but John wants the signage to reflect what he describes as “the Chester flavor.”
He himself has yet to play disc golf, but he certainly has the basic skill required.
“I tossed a Frisbee around in college,” he says.