SAN JOSE MERCURY: My Turn: Golf community, Pacifica residents, public officials rally over Sharp Park Golf Course’s future

SAN JOSE MERCURY: My Turn: Golf community, Pacifica residents, public officials rally over Sharp Park Golf Course’s future
By Richard Harris
Pacifica tribune guest columnist

Posted: 05/10/2011 05:02:01 PM PDT
Updated: 05/10/2011 05:02:01 PM PDT
An overflow crowd of Bay Area public golfers, golf dignitaries, local residents, and political and public officials from San Francisco and San Mateo County rallied Thursday, April 28, at the Sharp Park Golf Course, to defend the 80-year-old landmark against the long-running effort by the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity to close the course.

“We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously,” San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg said in a prepared statement read by San Francisco Public Golf Alliance co-founder Bo Links. “But we are committed to maintaining golf at Sharp Park as a valued recreational pastime at this historic and beautiful golfing venue.”

Ginsburg’s commitment was cheered by a diverse crowd of 200-plus men and women golfers ranging from grade schoolers and high school team players to grey-bearded seniors. Included in the mix were Don Horsley, San Mateo County supervisor; Councilmember Len Stone; Julie Lancelle, former Pacifica mayor; Barbara Arietta, chairwoman of the Pacifica Community Coalition to Save Sharp Park Golf Course; Richard Holober, president of the San Mateo County Community College District; the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce; and Laborers’ Union Local 261.

Lancelle called the course “a tremendously valuable recreational asset for the city of Pacifica as well as the region.” Supervisor Horsely, whose district includes Pacifica, added “Sharp Park is an important part of Pacifica’s history, kind of the heart and soul of Pacifica. And golf is not an elite sport — it’s a great recreational resource for seniors as well as kids.” Both the Pacifica City Council and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors have passed unanimous resolutions to keep the golf course open.

Ken Venturi, who learned golf in the 1940s at Sharp Park and San Francisco’s other public courses, urged the crowd in a written statement to defend the course “with your time, your money, and your passion. Do not let anybody destroy Sharp Park.” Venturi is the honorary chairman of the Public Golf Alliance, and the 1964 United States Open champion.

Other golf notables included former U.S. Golf Association President Sandy Tatum and California Alliance for Golf representative Emmy Moore Minister.

Opened in 1932 and designed by preeminent architect Alister MacKenzie, Sharp Park was targeted in a federal court lawsuit filed March 2, 2011 under the Endangered Species Act by a handful of activist organizations led by the Center for Biological Diversity. Since 2007, CBD has been campaigning, along with its co-plaintiff the National Parks Conservation Association, to close the golf course and have the property annexed to the adjoining Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

In December 2009, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission unanimously voted to reject the close-the-course option, following a six-month study and public hearings in which San Francisco’s environmental consultants recommended that the best and most cost-effective solution for environmental problems at the course would be to keep the 18-hole course open, but redesign some holes to enhance habitat for the protected San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frog.

The Center for Biological Diversity has continued to fight the Recreation and Park Department’s Sharp Park Plan, and at a CBD-sponsored rally at San Francisco City Hall on April 29, 2011, San Francisco Supervisor and candidate for mayor John Avalos announced to a CBD-sponsored rally that Avalos would introduce proposed legislation to the Board of Supervisors to transfer Sharp Park to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Lauren Barr, an officer of the Sharp Park Women’s Club and spokeswoman for the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, was heartened by the turnout at the Save Sharp Park Rally. “Obviously, this is a long fight and it will continue. But we are ready for a long fight, and we love to see the community rallying in support of this wonderful landmark golf course,” said Barr.

“This is a people’s golf course, serving young and old, men and women, all cultures and ethnic groups, and all of the schools, churches, clubs, and community services that use reasonably-priced golf events to raise money for their causes. It is gratifying to see the community coming to the rescue of this great landmark.”

The San Francisco Public Golf Alliance is a 5,000-member, volunteer, nonprofit public interest organization of San Francisco Bay Area supporters of public golf, dedicated to preserving affordable, eco-friendly golf.

Richard Harris is with the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance