By Ben Kleppinger

Last spring, when the city of Richmond signed over local bird sanctuary Camp Catalpa to private interests who wanted to build an RV park, many people from the Richmond and Eastern community rallied to save Catalpa and preserve it as a public park.But after such a large effort was made to keep Catalpa around, are the communities who protected it using it?

Absolutely, said Mary Whitaker, a Richmond Parks and Recreation employee. “It’s used just as much as before,” she said. And since the recent addition of an 18-hole disc golf course, public use of the park is on the rise, Whitaker added.

Laura Nichols, of Richmond, came out to Catalpa on Sunday to play disc golf.

“Very rarely are we out here alone,” she said.

Nichols started the Madison County chapter of the weight loss program “The Biggest Loser.” She said 22 Madison County biggest losers came out to Catalpa in August for an introduction to disc golf from the Richmond Disc Golf Club. “There’s about five of us that play all the time because of that,” Nichols said.

Fellow Biggest Loser Joshua Coffman said when he first learned about disc golf, he would plat at Catalpa almost every day.

“I’m still kinda wet behind the ears, but I enjoy it,” he said.

Coffman said he also used to jog at Catalpa on a regular basis. Right now he makes it out to the park about once or twice a week, but he said he’s trying to change that. “I’d like to go more than I am right now,” he said.

Coffman said during the save Camp Catalpa campaign, he put a save Camp Catalpa sign in the back window of his car. “I didn’t do a lot of campaigning to save Camp Catalpa,” he said. “But I felt like if I was going to campaign to save Camp Catalpa then I should use it.”

Catalpa is a great getaway people have recently discovered, Coffman said. “They can be away from Richmond without leaving Richmond,” he said. “It’s like a little refuge in the city and I think a lot of people have discovered that.”

Abby Clutter, a junior medical assisting major from Charlestown, also came out to Catalpa on Sunday. Clutter said it was her first time out to the park, and she plans to return to play more disc golf. Billy Ellis, a carpenter from Lexington, was playing disc golf with Clutter. He said Catalpa lacks public exposure. “There’s no advertising for it,” he said.

Wayne Winkler, the director of maintenance for Richmond Parks and Recreation, said two maintenance workers go out to Catalpa every morning to pick up trash. Trash is usually not very bad, but still acts as an indicator of activity, he said.

Winkler said he doesn’t see many people at the park when he’s there in the mornings, but expects more people come in the afternoons and evenings.

Erin Moore, the assistant director of Richmond Parks and Recreation, said the two shelters at Catalpa are booked for use every weekend, and quite often on weekdays as well. 6,000 people used the shelters alone at Catalpa in 2007, Moore said. That number doesn’t include people who use Catalpa for walking, jogging or disc golf.

Travis Madden, a sophomore art major from Mckee, said he plays disc golf at Catalpa a couple times a month, and has been going to the park since before the save Camp Catalpa campaign.

Other students are less involved with Catalpa. Katie LaVictorie, a sophomore homeland security major from Bowling Green, said she has never been to Camp Catalpa, and doesn’t know where it is. LaVictorie said she thinks many students still don’t know about Camp Catalpa. “I’d like to hear more about stuff to do off-campus,” she said.