San Francisco Bay Chapter Sierra Club

California red-legged frogs at Sharp Park

For years the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department has illegally killed threatened California red-legged frogs at the Sharp Park Golf Course. In March 2011 the Sierra Club and other organizations sued, and in April 2012 the court ordered the city to apply for the required permit. The new permit, issued in October 2012, places major restrictions on golf-course operations. For more information see "Sharp Park lawsuit successful " and "Judge awards fees to Sharp Park plaintiffs".

Sharp Park

Sharp Park

Photo Credit: Matt Jalbert // www.sparklejet.com

Restore Sharp Park

On Sep. 6, 2011, Supervisor John Avalos introduced legislation to create a long-term management agreement with the National Park Service (NPS) at Sharp Park, and on the following Dec. 20 the Board of Supervisors OK'ed it, but on Tue., Dec. 20, Mayor Lee vetoed it.

The financial and legal liabilities at Sharp Park Golf Course cost the City hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars annually, funds spent subsidizing golf in San Mateo County. The golf market is oversupplied in the Bay Area, making it hard to turn a profit. San Francisco has five other public golf courses, yet fails to meet the recreational needs of families, as well as hiking and biking enthusiasts. We still urge the city to partner with the NPS--which has the most-secure funding of all of the park systems and the expertise to properly manage the land--to create a more sustainable public park. At stake is the habitat of two endangered species, the threatened red-legged frog and the endangered San Francisco garter snake.

 


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Background

If the controversy currently swirling around the San Francisco public golf courses seems irrelevant to you, the case of Sharp Park should convince you otherwise.

San Francisco's six golf courses collectively receive $1,500,000 in subsidies annually from the general fund to offset revenue shortfalls, but Sharp Park - owned by San Francisco but located in Pacifica - is poised to cost San Francisco a whole lot more, while threatening two endangered species to boot.

Sharp Park encompasses the Sanchez Creek watershed. The golf course occupies the lower, western end of the park, while the rest of the park is a "significant natural resource area" managed by the Natural Areas Program of San Francisco's Recreation and Parks Department. It's the largest, most intact, and most biodiverse natural area the city owns. Except for the golf course and some ramshackle structures maintained by the 60-year-old archery club, the park is wholly undeveloped.

Planners have been tabulating needed capital improvements and deferred maintenance for Sharp Park. Estimated costs for the golf course range from $17,000,000 to $47,000,000 depending on low versus high estimates and which costs are allocated to the golf course. The Rec and Parks Department and Public Utilities Commission have concocted an additional $10,000,000 plan to build an irrigation tank for the golf course.

A substantial part of the golf course is actually below sea level and kept dry by a levee/seawall that is in bad shape. Saltwater incursion has been documented within the course in Laguna Salada and Horse Stable Pond. Without major work on the levee, the entire western end of Sharp Park will revert to saltwater marsh - as it once was and should be again.

The Sanchez Creek watershed is also home to the red-legged frog, a federally listed threatened species, and to the San Francisco garter snake, one of the most endangered species in North America. Continued use of the park for a golf course limits habitat for both these species, and the proposed use of treated wastewater on the golf course poses as-yet-unstudied risks due to residual pharmaceuticals and other potential endocrine disrupters in the recycled water. While the Sierra Club generally supports use of recycled wastewater for landscape irrigation - on golf courses in particular - Sharp Park is not the place for this unless convincing evidence can be found that wastewater use wouldn't jeopardize the threatened amphibians. Further, loss of the frogs would extirpate the garter snake, which relies upon them for prey.

A golf course should never have been built here. It has seen a 37% decline in use, but its continuation would cost tens of millions of dollars while contributing significantly to the threats to two listed species.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to get involved, please contact Conservation Organizer Michelle Myers at michelle.myers@sierraclub.org or (510) 848-0800.


red legged frog

Red-legged frog. Photo credit John Battas USFWS.

More information

Wild Equity's site also has important information about Sharp Park: http://wildequity.org