Busy day at Sharp Park! Father-son Jon and Wyatt McGovern discuss strategy on the first tee, while in the background Wing Lai, Don Chinn, Clifford Lai, and Weyland Lum (L-R) celebrate a birdie putt on the 18th green, at the recent Alister MacKenzie Tournament to Save Sharp Park.
PACIFICA, CA. After years of political, legal, and bureaucratic delay, work began here this week at the historic Sharp Park Golf Course on the first stage of a combined habitat recovery and golf renovation project intended to safeguard endangered frogs and snakes, while renovating the landmark Alister MacKenzie-designed public links.
On June 1, the California Coastal Commission issued a coastal development permit to San Francisco for the Sharp Park Pump House Project, to dredge cattails from wetland areas, construct a new frog pond south of the golf course, and move a small section of cart path out of a wetland bordering the 14th Hole.
San Francisco’s Recreation & Park Department is under order from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to begin work on these measures by July 1. But the project had been delayed by a lawsuit filed by anti-golf groups, who sought to further delay the work with demands for extended environmental review. On May 28, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong dismissed that lawsuit, Wild Equity Institute, et al vs. City and County of San Francisco. Finding that San Francisco’s environmental review has been adequate, Judge Wong upheld permits granted in early 2014 by the San Francisco Recreation and Park and Planning Commissions, and approved in March, 2014 by the Board of Supervisors. In March, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed Wild Equity’s appeal from a 2012 U.S. District Court decision which denied the anti-golf groups’ attempt to enjoin golf at Sharp Park for alleged violations of the Federal Endangered Species Act.“
This is a common-sense result,” said Attorney Chris Carr of the Morrison-Foerster law office, representing San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, which intervened in the case on behalf of public course golfers. “San Francisco has plans to improve habitat for the frog and snake, the plans have been extensively studied, reviewed, approved – and in fact, ordered – not only by San Francisco agencies and elected officials, but also by all the relevant state and federal agencies, including US Fish & Wildlife, Corps of Engineers, Water Quality Control Board, and Coastal Commission. All of them have rejected the anti-golf arguments, which have also been rejected by both the Federal and State Courts. It’s now time to just get on with it.”
Sharp Park’s moderate greens fees notwithstanding, the course is ranked among the Top 50 Municipal Courses in the Country. It is home for high school, women’s, minority, and seniors golfing societies, and in 1955 hosted the inaugural tournament of the Western States Golf Association, one of the oldest and largest African-American golfing societies in the U.S.
Coordinated local-state-federal planning for habitat and golf restoration at Sharp Park began with the 1992 “Laguna Salada Resource Enhancement Plan,” commissioned and financed by the California Coastal Conservancy, which prescribed dredging the lagoons and other measures to recover endangered species habitat at Sharp Park, while preserving the historic golf course. That study was followed by construction of the $12 million Pacifica Recycled Water Project, jointly financed by Pacifica, San Francisco, and the Federal Government, which brought recycled water from Pacifica’s Calera Creek Water Treatment Plant to irrigate the golf course. The pumps, pipelines, and storage tank were completed in 2012, and recycled irrigation water began flowing to the course in Fall, 2014.
Remaining to do at Sharp Park is more habitat recovery work, together with restoration of the golf course itself -- one of the few public courses built by legendary golf architect Alister MacKenzie, who designed many of the world’s acknowledged greatest courses, including Augusta National, home of the annual Masters Tournament, and the Cypress Point Club on the Monterey Peninsula. Plans for that restoration and recovery work are currently undergoing environmental review in the San Francisco Planning Department. San Francisco Public Golf Alliance and the Alister MacKenzie Foundation are working together to raise philanthropic funds for the golf course restoration.
Richard Harris 415-290-5718
Bo Links 415-393-8099
Photographs courtesy of Brad Knipstein Photography