Disc golfers to Zoho: Please go develop some place else

MCALLEN, Texas – The disc golfers that play regularly at Green Jay Park in south McAllen have nothing against Zoho Corporation. They just wish the tech giant would develop some place else.

“Green Jay Park is just a phenomenal piece of open space. We cannot afford to lose green space like this in McAllen,” said disc golfer Ben Vondrak.

“Besides, is one of the best disc golf courses in the entire Rio Grande Valley. I find tons of stress relief coming out here and being able to play a few rounds with my friends. It helps me get through my day to day.”

As first reported in the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Zoho wants to build a 90-acre campus in McAllen. 

The City of McAllen has steered Zoho towards Green Jay Park, next to Ware Road, just south of Expressway 83. But, before Zoho can purchase the land from the City, McAllen City Commission has to re-zone it from “agricultural” to “light industrial” use. The other problem they have is that the land sits in a FEMA-designated flood zone.

Vondrak said he and his golfing buddies first saw a City of McAllen sign saying the land was going to be rezoned a few months back. 

“We hadn’t heard anything from the City and then, all of a sudden, we just saw a rezoning sign go up. All of us were instantly heartbroken. We love this park,” Vondrak said.

“We started to reach out try to find more information. But even that can be pretty difficult at city hall. But now we know what’s going on, we are really trying to fight the City.”

Vondrak said he cannot understand why any corporation would want to build on Green Jay Park because it floods “majorly.” He said: “We cannot play the day after it rains because everything here is underwater. It’s not meant for infrastructure at all.”

Daniel Brooke owns a store in McAllen that sells disc golf equipment. He said this is the second time city planners have tried to re-zone Green Jay Park.

“The City Commission abandoned their first effort to rezone the park because the planning and zoning board said no. They said the land was not suitable for development because of the flooding. So now they are coming back at it again,” Brooke said.

“But this time, we’ve been able to mobilize, to do our own research. There’s a group called Save McAllen’s Green Spaces. They are helping us. That group is made up of more than just golfers. It’s the homeowners in this area, plus some environmentalists. So, we have a good fight going on.”

Brooke said it looks as though city leaders have made up their mind to rezone and sell Green Jay Park, even if it is not to Zoho.

“Right now they’re trying to get FEMA’s approval. They have to get FEMA’s approval because this is a designated flood zone. We went to a recent town hall meeting and that is when they told us that the FEMA decision is the only thing that’s holding them up right now.”

Like Vondrak, Brooke said Green Jay Park is one of the best disc golf courses around.

“It is one of the Top 50 courses in the state of Texas. I have people that come in from out of town. Their first stop out of the airport is my store. They want to know where the best golf course is. And everyone agrees that it is this one.”

And, also like Vondrak, Brooke said it is “not right” for the City of McAllen to “lose another parcel of green space when there are so few available.”

Brooke added that he was not pleased with the City of McAllen for holding a town hall meeting at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon.

“They hold these things at, like, 3:30 on a Friday afternoon because they know that people from the low-income neighborhoods, just south of here… they’re know they are not going to be able to get off work in time to voice their opinion.”

Disc golfer Jose L. Flores said he worries that if city leaders mess with the flooding in Green Jay Park it could adversely affect low-income areas further south.

“My concern is you have all these people who don’t really have a voice because the City doesn’t take them into consideration. And if the flooding were to get to them, they are going to have even more property damage in their homes. They’re already in a low lying area as it is. How are they going to be able to fix their homes if they get more flooding?”

Valentin Rodriguez, Jr., said there was a time when city leaders supported the disc golf community. 

“Jim Darling actually showed up and took pictures while they played disc golf at Daffodil Park. And he was all for trying to grow the sport here in McAllen. He played with the group and had a great time. It wasn’t just a photo-op.”

Rodriguez said he has heard that Zoho has not made a definitive decision on developing Green Jay Park. 

“They’re not necessarily dead set on this park. I am told the CEO does want a space in McAllen that’s close to the expressway. And I know that they tried to get land on South Military Highway, a few miles south of here. But that didn’t work out for him.”

Rodriguez said he is also concerned about the other creators that use the old McAllen Public Library, should Zoho leave.

“Zoho are renting out three floors at the McAllen Incubator, which is the old McAllen Public Library, close to downtown. And basically they’re paying a majority of the utility bill there. So that is helping out a lot of the other smaller creators in the studio. If Zoho leaves, will those that are left have to foot the bill for the utilities?”

The golfers were asked for any closing remarks, before they resumed their round.

Vondrak said although he still calls Green Jay Park by its old name, it is now known on Google Maps as McAllen Disc Golf Park.

Brooke said disc golf is the second fastest growing sport in the United States. He said there is a big tournament taking place at Green Jay Park next Sunday, July 16, starting at 9 a.m. 

“If anybody would like to come out and participate we’ll have extra discs here. It’s free to the public and anybody can come play. We have all different kinds of skill level divisions. So you’ll be playing with people that will be of your skill level.”

Editor’s Note: The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service will bring readers the views of McAllen City Commission and Zoho Corporation in future editions.

Editor’s Note: Back in early 2022, the City of McAllen put out a video showing its support of disc golf. Here it is:

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