Local News

Group sues to protect golf course frog

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
California Red Legged Frog

Group claims the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica is killing the Red Legged Frog.(AP) (AP Photo)

In Pacifica, a new environmental battleground is setting up, in what would appear to be an ecologically friendly place. It's Sharp Park Golf Course, which the City of San Francisco built after a recreational land grant in the 1920's. Now, an environmental group is citing the Endangered Species Act and trying to close the place down.

It is a beloved and hallowed place for San Francisco municipal golfers. Sharp Park, designed by one of the game's great architects, Alister Mackenzie. Lucky for him, environmentalists did not have the same clout in 1932.

"Well this golf course, unfortunately, was built on endangered species habitats," says Peter Brastow, with Nature in the Park.

San Francisco Garter Snakes live on or near the property, as do California Red Legged Frogs. So now a group called the Center for Biological Diversity claims course maintenance is killing them, and they're talking about a lawsuit.

"Do you want the golf course gone?" asks ABC7's Wayne Freedman.
"The golf course is not compatible with wetlands habitat," says Jeff Miller, with the Center for Biological Diversity.

It's not a lawsuit, yet, but a letter of intention to sue. The group as given San Francisco's Department of Parks and Recreation 60 days to remedy the problem.

"Mowers cutting up snakes? I would love to see the proof of that," says Dave Diller, a Sharp Park golfer.

Local golfers, and the maintenance staff describe the claims as ridiculous.

"I've seen plenty of live ones, but no dead ones," says Greg Ritchie, a golf course starter.

San Francisco's Parks Department did not comment on camera, but the mayor pro tem of Pacifica did. She's angry about what looks to her like an environmentalist land grab.

"The habitat is now in existence for the red legged frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake was created by the golf course and that habitat has thrived," says Julie Lansel, the Pacifica mayor pro tem.

Environmental gurus believe this land would serve a greater good if returned to wetlands. They say people could hike here, although many could hike here now. Regardless, for golfers, an inexpensive and culturally diverse place to play would disappear.

"Frankly, the question is whether golf is the highest use of this site and is it the most sensible use of this site? Certainly, ecologically, fiscally, and from an endangered species point of view, it is not," says Miller.

A determination that golfers say has come along seven decades late.

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