Creating a better public park everyone can enjoy.

Build It and They Will Come: Emperor Goose at Sharp Park!!

Our recent rains allowed Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetlands to drink deeply, and now an unusual visitor has made the wetland complex its temporary home.

An Emperor Goose, normally found near the Aleutian Islands and points north, has been observed feeding in and around the wetland areas restored by our recent rains.  Wild Equity digiscoped a few photos of the rare bird:

Unfortunately Sharp Park Golf Course is draining the wetlands as rapidly as possible, so it is unclear how long the wetland complex will be able to support this unusual visitor: or the endangered species that call the wetland complex home.
 
Despite the golf course’s attempt to destroy the wetland complex, the course conditions are saturated, and many areas are covered in standing water.  

Sharp Park Golf Course, Hole 10, January 26, 2017


Fortunately you can help fix this travesty. Write San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors today and tell them to get the golf course out of our natural areas!

Press Release: Environmental Groups Appeal SF Plan to Redevelop Money-losing Sharp Park Golf Course

For Immediate Release: January 17, 2017
Press Contact: Brent Plater, bplater@wildequity.org, 415-572-6989

Environmental Groups Appeal SF Plan to Redevelop Money-losing Sharp Park Golf Course

Endangered San Francisco Garter Snake and California Red-legged Frog threatened by development

SAN FRANCISCO, CA and PACIFICA, CA – Today a coalition of environmental groups filed an appeal of a plan to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course. The Recreation and Park and Planning Commissions recently approved the project that is one part of a citywide Natural Resources Management Plan.

“In 2009 the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department promised in writing that a controversial proposal to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course would never be inserted into the Natural Resources Management Plan,” said Brent Plater of Wild Equity. “The Department broke this promise, and in the process broke the law and any pretense of honest, open governance of our parks.”
2006 Natural Resources Management Plan for Sharp Park

2006 Natural Resources Management Plan for Sharp Park. The original plan’s management boundary (depicted by areas shaded in brown) was limited to the natural lagoon at Sharp Park. No modifications to the golf course were proposed. Environmental groups unanimously supported this plan.


Sharp Park Golf Course, owned by San Francisco and located in Pacifica, is habitat for the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake and California Red-legged frog. Scientists at various institutions, including Cal Academy of Sciences and San Francisco State University, have criticized the golf course as threatening rare and dwindling habitat for the endangered species.

2016 Natural Resources Management Plan for Sharp Park. After no public hearings, the plan significantly changed for Sharp Park. The boundary has been expanded to include the golf course. The plan now includes raising several fairways to “reduce flooding,” moving holes, and modifying hole lengths. Scientists warn this plan threatens one of the last remaining habitats for the endangered species.


“It’s a shame that the golf course redevelopment is part of an otherwise sound plan,” said Arthur Feinstein of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter. “We support other elements of the Natural Resources Management Plan, so we’re asking the Board of Supervisors to take out the golf course redevelopment, and let the rest of the plan go forward.”

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), which joined today’s appeal, issued the following statement: “We’re simply asking the City to make good on their promise to conduct a complete, separate environmental review of any changes to the Sharp Park golf course,” stated Neal Desai of NPCA. “Raising fairways and moving holes may improve playability but scientists warn it will harm species. San Francisco shouldn’t jam an unrelated golf course development into a natural areas plan.”

Back in 2011, the Board of Supervisors voted to turn Sharp Park Golf Course over to the National Park Service. However, Mayor Ed Lee, a golf enthusiast, vetoed the decision.

“New records show that Sharp Park Golf Course lost more than $600,000 in 2014/15 alone,“ says Plater. “At a time when the Mayor is asking departments to cut budgets, it’s irresponsible to pour millions of taxpayer dollars into a golf course that loses money year after year. We have five other public golf courses in San Francisco that are more popular and accessible to residents. And unlike Sharp Park Golf Course, they don’t harm endangered species.”

Many golf courses have closed in recent years because of the declining popularity of the sport.

Other groups that oppose the golf course redevelopment include Golden Gate Audubon, Sequoia Audubon, Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter, SAVE THE FROGS!, and SF League of Conservation Voters.

Winter Rains Breathe Life into Laguna Salada … For Now

Our recent winter rains have allowed Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex to drink deeply, reclaiming areas that Sharp Park Golf Course drains and mows to create fairways and greens.

But if the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s plan to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course is finalized, the fringing wetlands you see today will be filled with dredged spoils and lost forever.

Click on any image below to get a full view of what’s possible for Sharp Park, and then write the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and tell them to get Sharp Park Golf Course out of our natural areas, before it’s too late.



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Last Chance for the Beautiful Serpent?

Will San Francisco squander one of the last opportunities to help the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake?  

Unless you stand with us now, the City of St. Francis probably will.  

San Francisco Garter Snakes!

Is it too late for our namesake snake?

For years Wild Equity has been leading the fight against the money-losing, endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course.  

In the first weeks of 2017 we will lead a challenge to a terrible plan to redevelop the golf course, a plan that the City just authorized a few weeks ago.

But we can’t do it alone.  When you join Wild Equity, you make sure San Francisco creates a more just and sustainable community for all: including North America’s most beautiful serpent.

Imagine the world we will build together: a more equitable world for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth. Thank you for supporting this vision and contributing to our work today!

Brent PlaterThank you so much!

Brent Plater




Brent Plater
Executive Director



Wild Equity’s new online store is now live! So day or night you can get your hands on Nancy Morita’s beautifully heartbreaking ‘Wild in the City’ poster; or our famous “I ‘Bird’ SF” T-shirts; or one of our gorgeous, reusable, non-toxic, 100% recycled aluminum, made-in-the-USA water bottles.  

If you’re looking for something else, consider shopping at AmazonSmile and designate Wild Equity Institute as your charity of choice.  When you do,  Amazon.com will give a portion of the website’s profits to Wild Equity: at no extra charge to you!  Look for items with “Eligible for Amazon Smile donation” in the product description, and again, be sure to designate Wild Equity as your favorite charitable organization.  

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Stand with Wild Equity in 2017!

Wild Equity InstituteDear Friend,

With the tectonic shift in national politics, our focus on local environmental and social issues may be our only hope. The victory at Standing Rock, in the backdrop of the incoming climate change-denying administration, shows how a local, grassroots movement can trounce billion-dollar corporate interests.

At this moment, I appreciate living in San Francisco more than ever. The Bay Area may be one of the few regions left where we have a chance to defend wildlife.

Poor froggie

But recently we lost a battle. Wild Equity spoke before the San Francisco Planning Commission to oppose the Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment project that was surreptitiously inserted into the citywide Natural Areas Management Plan. The Sierra Club, state and local Audubon chapters, Surfrider, NPCA, & many other environmental groups stood with us. Although the Commission, ever the rubber-stamp, voted to approve the plan, the dissenting Commissioner cited the Sharp Park golf course redevelopment as the reason she voted no.

But the war is not lost: we now move on to the Board of Supervisors, where we have been more successful than any other contemporary conservation group. We have allies on the Board today, and while it won’t be easy, we have a template to win.

As always, we’ll employ our full suite of skills — public relations, lobbying, education, grassroots organizing, and litigation – to protect endangered species in San Francisco, Pacifica, Antioch, and beyond.

But we can’t do it without you: please make a tax-deductible contribution to the Wild Equity Institute today.

With your support we can demonstrate how local efforts can change the tide, from here to Standing Rock. Thank you for your support of a more equitable world for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth!

With deepest gratitude,

Brent PlaterBrent Plater

Brent Plater, Director
Wild Equity Institute

 

 

PS —Check out the new Wild Equity online store and pick-up our new sky blue “I ‘Bird’ SF” shirts and Wild in the City posters!

 

 

 

I 'Bird' SF T-shirt, unisex, natural cotton color I "Bird" SF Shirt, Ladies Half-scoop, Sky Blue Color

Wild Equity Celeb SightingIf you know who this is, you NEED this bottle! (Contact us if you need a hint)

Wild in the City Poster by Nancy Morita Does any other poster demonstrate how inequitable we’ve been to these lands? Nope. That’s why you need one. 24 x 35 in.


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Dec. 15, 1pm: Stop the Sharp Park Golf Course Bailout!

Thursday, December 15, 1pm, San Francisco City Hall Room 400: Join us at a San Francisco Planning Commission and Recreation and Park Commission joint meeting where the commissioners will vote on a taxpayer funded bailout of the money-losing, endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course. This meeting will likely be a long one: we need you to come early, stay late, and demand that the commissioners oppose this terrible project. A coalition of environmental, environmental justice, social service and neighborhood park groups have come together to oppose this golf course project, demanding that the City eliminate it from the environmental review of the Significant Natural Resource Area Management Plan: and if they don’t demanding that they reject the environmental review process all together. Golf industry groups have pressured San Francisco’s Mayor to bailout Sharp Park Golf Course for years, and the Recreation and Parks Department and in 2009 it drafted a controversial proposal to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course. This proposal was heavily criticized by environmentalists, budget hawks, and Bay Area scientists, and the proposal died on the vine. But in an Orwellian move, seven years later the Recreation and Park Department inserted the golf course redevelopment project into the final environmental review for San Francisco’s Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan ("SNRAMP"), a plan that many, including Wild Equity, once supported. This was done even though the Department promised the public in 2009 that the golf course redevelopment project would never be integrated with the SNRAMP plan: Wild Equity, the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Tomorrow, S.F. League of Conservation Voters, National Parks Conservation Association, S.F. Green Party, Sequoia Audubon and others all agree: the environmental benefits proposed by SNRAMP in other areas are far outweighed by the environmental destruction the golf course bailout would cause at Sharp Park. We need to stop this proposal, and that’s why we are asking you to join us at 1pm on December 15 at City Hall Room 400 to demand that the golf course project be removed from SNRAMP’s environmental review process, and if the City refuses to remove it, demand that the entire environmental review document be rejected.

San Francisco Moves to Bailout Controversial Sharp Park Golf Course

San Francisco’s Significant Natural Resource Areas Program was to be one of the great urban conservation programs in America. But in 2016, San Francisco released a Final Environmental Impact Report (“FEIR”) for the Significant Natural Resource Area Management Plan (“SNRAMP”) that will, if adopted, turn the program on its head.

The FEIR removes SNRAMP’s original plan for Sharp Park’s natural areas and replaces it with a project to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course within the “recovery” area for two imperiled species, the San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red-Legged Frog.

Sharp Park Golf Course is arguably San Francisco’s greatest economic and ecological mistake. It loses hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, taking money away from San Francisco’s neighborhood parks and community centers. It kills two endangered species as it operates, and its location along California’s coast means that before long it will be flooded by sea level rise: already several links have been washed out to sea.

Golf purists nonetheless demanded a taxpayer bailout for Sharp Park Golf Course, and in 2009 the Recreation and Parks Department conceded to their demands by releasing a controversial proposal to redevelop Sharp Park Golf Course. Known as “A18,” the proposal was heavily criticized by environmentalists, budget hawks, and Bay Area scientists, who stated

It is our conclusion that the minimal habitat enhancement proposed by the Park Department in their preferred 18-hole alternative is inadequate to allow the recovery of the San Francisco garter snake and red-legged frog at the site, and is set up to fail with climate change and sea-level rise.[source]

Map demonstrating changes to Sharp Park Golf Course under the A18 Proposal

When this criticism became public A18 appeared dead on arrival at City Hall. Indeed, shortly after A18 was criticized, the Recreation and Parks Department publicly stated:

Because redesigning or eliminating the Sharp Park Golf Course is a separate proposal being studied by SFRPD, it will not be included or evaluated as part of the proposed [Significant Natural Areas Management Plan] project analyzed in the EIR. Should changes to the Sharp Park Golf Course be proposed, they would undergo a separate regulatory review, including CEQA environmental review.[source]

Yet in November 2016 the Department released a SNRAMP FEIR that removed the original plan for Sharp Park and replaced it with A18, the Golf Course redevelopment project. Moreover, the FEIR declares the Golf Course a Historic Resource that CEQA must protect—even though the original design was washed away by ocean storms decades ago—and therefore refused to consider alternatives that would protect Sharp Park’s environment from this devastating and controversial project.

Sharp Park, inarguably San Francisco’s most ecologically and biologically important natural area, would be devastated by implementation of A18, and in the seven years since A18 was first announced, many of the SNRAMP proposals for San Francisco’s 31 other natural areas have moved forward or implemented, because they either didn’t require environmental review or because they were incorporated into other park projects.

Nonetheless, to ensure that SNRAMP’s good proposals for the City’s other natural areas wouldn’t be affected by the disasterous proposal for Sharp Park, Wild Equity and an array of environmental and community supporters demanded that the Sharp Park Golf Course redevelopment plan be segregated out of SNRAMP and its environmental review process, so the golf course project could stand or more likely, fall on its own merits.

But these reasonable proposals have fallen on deaf ears. The Recreation and Parks Department has informed San Francisco’s environmental community that we must sacrifice our most precious biological resource if we desire modest conservation gains in San Francisco’s other natural landscapes.

Now Wild Equity, the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Tomorrow, S.F. League of Conservation Voters, National Parks Conservation Association, S.F. Green Party, Sequoia Audubon and others all agree: the environmental benefits proposed by SNRAMP in other areas are far outweighed by the environmental destruction the golf course bailout would cause at Sharp Park. We need to stop this proposal, and that’s why we are asking you to join us at noon on December 15 at City Hall Room 400 to demand that the golf course project be removed from SNRAMP’s environmental review process, and if the City refuses to remove it, demand that the entire environmental review document be rejected.

A New Vision for Sharp Park

A new vision for one special place in Pacifica could help bring some desperately needed respite for imperiled wildlife, while helping protect the town’s homes and vital infrastructure.

A restoration vision for Sharp Park.

One of the rarest, and arguably most beautiful snakes in the world, and Mark Twain’s Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County once thrived together in Pacifica’s cool, fog-swept coastal wetlands. Here, the San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frog played out the ancient dance of predator and prey among the town’s ponds and muddy rushes—protected from the salty battering of the sea by an extensive network of dunes, wetlands, and lagoons.

Centuries of development have reduced San Mateo’s natural coastal areas to just a fraction of what they once were. This has not only been bad news for the snake and the frog, which are now both on the Endangered Species List, but also for Pacifica residents whose property and roads are threatened by the resulting flooding and shoreline erosion.

One place that is no stranger to flooding is Sharp Park Golf Course, which sits in a low basin that was once a coastal lagoon at the point where the surrounding hillsides drain into the Pacific Ocean. The lagoon was filled to create the golf course, and the outlet of Sanchez Creek, which flows through the property, has been blocked by a seawall in the years since. The resulting changes in Sharp Park’s hydrology have wreaked havoc on both the golf course and the plants and animals that once lived there.

Sharp Park Golf Course floods during normal winter rains.

The proposed Sharp Park restoration will stop draining the lagoon and allow naturally rising water levels to reestablish a freshwater wetland. Rising seas will slowly erode the berm between the lagoon and the ocean, and in the process recreate the dune ecosystem that once existed there. These dunes will protect the new freshwater wetlands and lagoon from coastal storm surges and salt water tides. Any breaches caused by winter storms will make only the seaside portion of the lagoon brackish, while preserving ample freshwater areas for the snake and frog.

What was once a soggy and difficult to maintain golf course will become an essential part of a natural gradient among ocean, beach, dune, lagoon, wetland, and upland areas, which will help the landscape accommodate sea level rise over time. These newly reconnected habitats, combined with additional wildlife corridor enhancement, will also give the snake, frog, and other creatures access to Lake Arrowhead and the national park lands east and south, allowing them to once again become an integral part of Pacifica’s coastal landscapes.

A summary of the restoration plan, including estimated costs and benefits, is available here. Highlights include:

  • Remove pumping infrastructure and stop draining the filled lagoon to allow water levels to rise and create an open water marsh.
  • Daylight and remove culverted sections of Sanchez Creek to restore natural stream processes and wildlife habitat.
  • Create migration corridors, refuges, and nesting and breeding habitats for the San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frogs.
  • Allow the existing coastal seawall to erode and slowly migrate as ocean waves rise and push sand inland.
  • Construct small levees along the western and northern edges of the Fairway Park neighborhood and along Clarendon Road/Lakeside Avenue for flood protection.
  • Install new stormwater infrastructure to protect breeding frogs and collect runoff from adjacent neighborhoods.
  • Improve recreational opportunities, including a walking trail around the lagoon, a boardwalk over wetlands and uplands between the lagoon and the pond, and interpretive signs or kiosks.

Wetlands on Tuesday’s Ballot for Bay Area Voters

Wetland restoration efforts in the South Bay have enabled the population rebound of Ridgway’s Rail, seen here. (Source: Wild Equity Institute)

Wild Equity’s vision for Sharp Park has called for restoring the wetlands and repurposing the lands as a new national park for the public to enjoy. This proposal has been passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors 5 times, and a huge community of partners from different areas have endorsed our restoration vision as well.

On June 7th, Bay Area residents will vote on Measure AA, a wetland restoration initiative that would do something similar for the Bay side of our region. If passed, Measure AA would raise $500 million over 20 years for wetland restoration projects around San Francisco Bay. The funding would come from a $12 annual parcel tax in the 9 Bay Area counties: San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, and Solano.

Restoring wetlands is the best tool for mitigating sea level rise because wetlands break up wave energy. Furthermore, the restoration of wetlands provides many other benefits such as improved water quality, increased public access to shorelines, and ameliorated habitat conditions for wildlife. Wetland restoration projects in the South Bay, for instance, have enabled the return of wildlife such as Ridgway’s Rail and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. Climate models and recent scientific reports indicate that we can expect sea levels to rise 3 to 8 feet by the turn of the century, and that sea levels are now rising at the fastest rate in 28 centuries. If we don’t take action now, taxpayers can expect to shell out billions of dollars for new coastal infrastructure.

You can read more about Measure AA here.

This National Trails Day, Tell Mayor Lee to Restore Sharp Park

Restoring Sharp Park would provide new hiking opportunities for all

This Saturday, June 4th is National Trails Day- a day to celebrate the 200,000 miles of trails in the United States which allow us to exercise, connect with the natural world, escape from the chaos of daily life, and much more.

Hiking is one of the most beloved recreational activities by San Francisco residents. In fact, the last user survey performed by San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department found that out of 19 options, hiking and biking trails were by far the most in-demand. Meanwhile, golf placed 16th in the survey results, indicating low desirability amongst people surveyed.

Survey results indicate that San Franciscans want more walking and biking trails

Closing down Sharp Park Golf Course, restoring the wetlands, and repurposing the lands as a new national park would increase local hiking opportunities, coinciding with local recreational demand. And given its proximity to the adjacent Mori Point, an already existing and well-admired park managed by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Sharp Park is in an ideal location for a new park.

The low demand for golf extends well beyond San Francisco; the golf market has now been plummeting for over a decade nationwide and there is no economic indication that it will rebound any time in the foreseeable future. Sharp Park Golf Course has lost San Francisco taxpayers millions of dollars, and killed endangered species in the process. The status quo at this golf course simply should not be maintained when we could instead have something profitable, that allows the California Red-Legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake to thrive in peace, mitigates sea level rise, and creates a space for all people to enjoy.

Click here to take action and tell Mayor Ed Lee and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that you would rather see Sharp Park Golf Course as a publicly accessible park for all to enjoy!

Washington Golf Course to be Repurposed as a Public Park

An aerial view of Wayne Golf Course, soon to be a public park. (Source: Charlie Raines/Forterra)

As the golf market remains in the doldrums, courses across the United States continue to close. In 2015 alone, five courses were shut down in the Bay Area, including courses in Sunol, Livermore, & Pleasant Hill. Considering the size of a golf course and the volume of courses now closing annually, what will become of these closed courses?

Wayne Golf Course, located in the Seattle suburb of Bothell, Washington, was recently acquired by local environmental group Forterra in an effort to protect the wildlife habitat and turn the lands into a public park. Developers originally proposed to transform the course into housing, those plans fell through and Forterra was able to purchase the lands with a loan. In total, 89 acres will be preserved along the Sammamish River, which runs through Wayne Golf Course and provides habitat to Chinook Salmon, Lake Washington Kokanee, and Steelhead. Wayne Golf Course also sits adjacent to Blyth Park, a popular park for trail hiking, running, and other recreational activities, making the course a prime location for a new public park.

The initiative by Forterra is similar to Wild Equity’s plan for Sharp Park Golf Course. Both campaigns have been supported by the public, and have many other parallels as well. Like Wayne, Sharp Park Golf Course is the subject of poor decision making on the part of our local governments, and capital projects threaten the livelihood of wildlife residing on the course. Plus, Sharp Park Golf Course is also located adjacent to a popular park that is already part of the GGNRA (Mori Point). Due to economic realities, Sharp Park has no promising future as a golf course, and like Wayne Golf Course, can feasibly be restored and turned into a new public park.

It’s time to close Sharp Park Golf Course, restore Sharp Park’s wetlands, and let the Golden Gate National Recreation Area operate the lands as a national park- an idea which both the GGNRA and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have agreed to. Restoring Sharp Park would have numerous benefits: it would give the imperiled wildlife a chance to thrive, Pacifica would generate new tourism-based revenue, it would provide new recreational opportunities for all, and more.

To make our restoration vision a reality, we need your help. Click here to tell Mayor Lee and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that you support the restoration of Sharp Park!

Bay Area Still Not Serious About Preparing for Sea Level Rise


Sharp Park Golf Course has flooding issues as it is. Sea level rise will only make it worse.

New reports say that sea levels are now rising faster than they have at any point in the common era, and the clock is ticking on the opportunity to restore Sharp Park, which would protect the lands from flooding brought on by sea level rise.

According to Justin Gillis of the New York Times, a new report posted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that sea levels are now rising at the fastest rate in 28 centuries. Towns such as Annapolis, Maryland have experienced 394 days of flooding between 2005 and 2014, a stark contrast from the 32 days of flooding in the same area between 1955 and 1964. In just a matter of 50 years, the impacts of sea level rise have become increasingly observable and problematic, and will only get worse from here on out.

The science seems to fall on deaf ears, however, as Pacifica, San Mateo County, and San Francisco continue to authorize shortsighted seaside development projects. The last thing we should be doing is punting adaptation 30 years down the line, yet San Francisco continues to fight against the restoration of Sharp Park and has approved a number of large scale waterfront projects, such as the contentious new billion dollar stadium for the Golden State Warriors in the Mission Bay neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Pacifica has rubber-stamped the construction of both a new mobile home park and a library on the fragile coastline. Regular storm cycles such as El Nino have already caused significant damage to coastal infrastructure, and over time sea level rise will only substantially exacerbate the problem. In Pacifica, cliffs and sea walls have crumbled, people have been forced to vacate their homes, and cliffside apartment buildings have been demolished as a safety precaution- all on the taxpayers dime. $450 thousand dollars have been needed for emergency repairs to the sea wall alone. The town’s Sharp Park Golf Course has been subject to closures due to annual flooding caused by rain, and yet both San Francisco and San Mateo County are intent on keeping the golf course open and even partially redeveloped, despite environmental and economic conditions working against the course’s favor. As sea levels rise, the ocean will engulf Sharp Park Golf Course unless we let the seawall erode and the lands revert to a wetland, which would act as a natural buffer against elevating waters.

If Sharp Park Golf Course is closed and repurposed as a new national park, the restoration of the wetlands would decelerate the impact of sea level rise, since wetlands “break up” wave energy. Plus, having Sharp Park as a publicly accessible park operated by Golden Gate National Recreation Area (like the adjacent Mori Point) would allow the federally protected California Red-Legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake a chance to thrive, while also providing locals with more diverse recreational opportunities, saving taxpayers millions, and giving Pacifica an opportunity to make tourism-based revenue on land that is otherwise losing money. Moreover, the National Park Service, SF Board of Supervisors, residents of San Francisco and Pacifica, and even golfers have all supported the initiative to restore Sharp Park.

Bewilderingly, Mayor Ed Lee and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors want to keep the golf course open, despite the viable and fiscally responsible alternatives available, and thus continuing an era of questionable long-term decision making.

Tell your city and county administrators to start taking sea level rise seriously, and click here to tell Ed Lee and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to close down and restore Sharp Park today.

Movie Night: A Dangerous Game

Thursday, April 14, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Join the Wild Equity Institute for a screening of A Dangerous Game, an explosive documentary from filmmaker and investigative journalist Anthony Baxter (You’ve Been Trumped), which examines the eco-impact of luxury golf resorts around the world. Featuring exclusive interviews with Alec Baldwin, Robert Kennedy Jr. and Donald Trump, the film takes viewers on a globe-spanning journey to a World Heritage site in Croatia; the extravagant desert city of Dubai, the explosion of new but supposedly illegal courses in China and back to the filmmaker’s native Scotland, where Donald Trump continues his controversial building.

RSVP here

Mori Point Hike with Save the Frogs!

Saturday, April 30, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

On April 30 at 11 am, we’ll be joining forces with one of our favorite conservation groups Save the Frogs! We’ll be leading a hike at Mori Point. Join us to learn more about the endangered species living there (the California Red-legged Frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake), and to find out what’s been going on at Sharp Park and Mori Point in the past several months.

Meet at the Mori Point Entrance Gate, at the intersection of Bradford Way and Mori Point Road, Pacifica, CA, 94044.

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San Francisco’s Fragmented Ecosystems

San Francisco has 32 pockets of undeveloped land set aside for the preservation of the natural world. These pockets hold the last remnants of wildness once found across the lands where we now live, but do we have room in our parks and our hearts for nature in this city?

Please join Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute, for a photographic exploration of the remaining wild areas in San Francisco, discuss the threats they face, and learn how you can help these areas thrive.

We will also be discussing San Francisco’s Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan, parts of which imminently threaten the species mentioned above.

Come find out how you can become more engaged with regional wildlife and ecosystems!


San Francisco’s 32 preserved natural areas

Golfonomics: The Millennial Challenge

Golf needs millennials — but attracting them is proving to be difficult. The industry wants insight, and the Pro Golf Association (PGA) has created a task force aiming to redefine the golf experience. The sport’s popularity has been waning, and efforts to orient the game toward the values of young people have never been more important. The youth prioritize social and environmental consciousness, and in this regard golf has an unfortunate reputation. With black marks like Sharp Park Golf Course on record, the game too often presents itself as socially and environmentally reckless. The industry must repair this image if it is to meet the millennial challenge.

Since its peak around the year 2000, golf has lost nearly 5 million players across all age groups. Among young people these unfavorable rates have been even higher. Participation of players under 18 has dropped 40% since 2005, and among players aged 18-35 it has dropped 30% . It’s a problem that negatively affects projections regarding the future of the sport, and one study has found that golf participation could further drop a startling “40% to 60%” by mid-century. This tenuous long-term outlook needs improvement; it is crucial to reinvent the game in ways that engage young people.

Groups like the PGA’s task force need to understand what it is that turns millennials off about golf. One undeniably significant factor is social and environmental consciousness. Millennials have a strikingly different set of values from previous generations, and they prioritize wider ethical considerations even in their most personally significant choices. They’ll take a pay cut to work for companies that create positive social impacts, and they identify with brands that reflect their values and actively support social causes. They emphasize environmentalism, and will go to great lengths to demonstrate their ideological commitment to sustainability. At the recent People’s Climate March in NYC, over 50,000 young people filled up ten city blocks to protest human-made climate change. Even those who do not consider themselves environmentalists value sustainability.

To have any hope of engaging millennials, golf must repair its unsustainable image. The simplest, most effective way of doing so is to restore the most environmentally damaging courses to their natural states. When young people hear about locations like Sharp Park Golf Course killing endangered species and pumping fresh water into the sea, their opinion of the entire sport deteriorates. When they hear about municipalities like the City of San Francisco diverting funds to keep locations like Sharp Park Golf Course from closing, the notion that golf is a socially and environmentally reckless sport is reinforced. If millennials were to instead hear that Sharp Park Golf Course is being transformed into wildlife habitat, they would understand that golfers as a whole care about the environment and are willing to make to sacrifices in the name of ethically responsible values. By advocating for the rewilding of courses that are out and away the most damaging, golf enthusiasts can defy the image of golf as a socially and environmentally irresponsible sport.

Millennials are a demographic group that can be hard to reach. By incorporating values of social and environmental responsibility into recreational enterprises, athletic associations can find ways to engage the youth that benefit us all. Encouraging investors and municipalities to close golf’s most damaging courses will open the way to engaging millennials in the sport. Only then can the younger generation feel free to explore this classic American passtime.

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Help Move the World: Contribute to Wild Equity Today!

I’m starting this note with two short stories that inspired our work this year. After reading them, I believe you’ll be inspired to become a Wild Equity Institute member, so we can continue our extraordinary work.

Recently I returned from a weekend workshop where I discussed the future of the conservation movement with giants in our field—people like Dr. Michael Soulé, the founder of the field of conservation biology; Dr. Holmes Ralston III, a luminary in the field of environmental ethics; and Terry Tempest Williams, one of our great contemporary environmental writers.

It was an honor to simply be in a room with these incredible people. But as the meeting progressed, I was humbled to see that they found inspiration in the Wild Equity Institute’s work, and are incorporating our theory of change into a new era of environmental protection and conservation.

Around the same time I received this note from a student who participated in Wild Equity’s Endangered Species Big Semester, our environmental education project that helps disadvantaged students see and save our local endangered species:

“I got a lot from your program, like great memories and the chance to meet amazing people. I’m so thankful Wild Equity made it possible to help me learn, not only was it educational, but also it was fun and exciting. I absolutely loved all the field trips and would enjoy doing it again.”

We are proud that in just three short years we’ve improved lives and inspired leaders to build a stronger environmental movement for all.

But we can’t do it alone: and that’s why we’re asking you to become a Wild Equity Institute member today.

The Wild Equity Institute believes we can achieve extraordinary environmental victories while building a larger, more resilient environmental movement. We do this by uniting grassroots conservation and environmental justice groups in campaigns that build a more equitable world for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

At a minimum, this means our work must focus on preventing other species from going extinct, and ensuring that no community is burdened with a disproportionate share of environmentally harmful activities.

In 2012, we implemented this theory of change in several ways:

But we aren’t done yet. In 2013, we will work to save San Francisco’s Natural Areas Program so it can continue stewarding our local plants and wildlife; transform Sharp Park Golf Course into a new national park everyone can enjoy; and save the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly and empower local communities to end pollution from power plants that destroy the species’ habitat.

In each of these efforts, we build capacity for our movement by engaging new allies and building the power we need to tackle our most pressing environmental problems.

That’s why when you contribute to our work you get a twofer: we achieve measurable environmental gains on the ground, but more importantly, we ensure that our movement grows so that the scale of our efforts can match the size of the threats we face.

But movements are not defined by the effectiveness of organizations. They are defined by the inspiration, the passion, the commitment of the people these organizations serve. This is why we need you to demonstrate your commitment by becoming a Wild Equity member today.

Imagine the world we will build together: a more equitable world for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth. Thank you for supporting this vision and for joining us today!

Sincerely,

Brent Plater
Executive Director

P.S.— Consider becoming a monthly donor. For as little as $5 a month, you’ll help us spend less time raising funds and more time wining campaigns for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth! You can do this online at the Wild Equity Institute’s website. Thank you!

Sharp Park Ordinance’s Good Government” Design Appeals to Moderates & Progressives”

An extraordinary victory for people and the environment was won this week when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to begin restoration planning with the National Park Service for Sharp Park, a City-owned wetland in Pacifica.


A restoration vision for Sharp Park.

For many years the City has been operationg a money-losing, endangered species-killing golf course on the property. The new ordinance requires the City to pursue a new vision for the land—a national park vision that provides recreation everyone can enjoy while saving San Francisco money.

How the Campaign Was Won: Subcommittee Turnout

The victory was won this week, but involved years of grassroots campaigning. It culminated on December 5 when we delivered a massive turnout to a subcommittee hearing on the ordinance. Our supporters filled the hearing, spilled into the hallway, and filled the overflow rooms with turquoise T-shirts—the emblematic color of the San Francisco Garter Snake.

The turnout was not only large, but diverse. Our campaign was built on grassroots partnerships between environmental, park, justice, and social service organizations, and it was reflected in the turnout that we were able to generate.


Our coalition showed its strength last April for Save the Frogs Day
Endangered Species/Endangered Communities Rally.

The turnout clearly influenced the subcommittee, which moved the ordinance on to the full board. But perhaps more importantly, it also inspired our supporters. Mike Lynes of Golden Gate Audubon stated “I was impressed by the turn out that you guys managed to produce. I haven’t seen turn out like that for the environmental community on any issue in the past 3 years.” Arthur Feinstein of the Sierra Club explained that the turnout was “one of the largest the environmental community has ever generated in San Francisco. The diversity of speakers, both in age and ethnicity, was also extremely encouraging and impressive.” A long-time Pacifica resident stated “the subcommittee hearing was truly inspiring . . . extremely welcome and needed, and an accomplishment in itself.”

Who Opposes Restoring Sharp Park? Chamber of Commerce, Wealthy Law Partners, and the One Percent

The diverse groups supporting our campaign stood in stark contrast to the opponents of a new National Park at Sharp Park: elite golfers and development interests from coastal San Mateo County. “Golf purist” Sandy Tatum was there, demanding that Sharp Park Golf Course’s drain on neighborhood parks and city services continue. This wasn’t much of a surprise: the wealthy, Palo Alto-based retired lawyer once convinced San Francisco to take more than $16 million from a state program to build playgrounds for poor children and invest the money in Harding Park Golf Course, San Francisco’s most expensive and exclusive course. To date, the money has not been paid back in full, and San Francisco’s playgrounds and ballfields remain underfunded.

Even more alarming were the coastal development interests intent on using the subsidized golf course as a lure for more development. Courtney Conlon, CEO of Pacifica’s Chamber of Commerce, made this express in her comments, claiming that “Sharp Park Golf Course is the cornerstone of Pacifica’s economic development [including] a proposed plan for a new hotel and restaurant right on the ocean, right next door to Sharp Park Golf Course.”

Yet on the same day, 100 Economists released a report explaining something the New York Times first reported in 2006: that national parks are far better drivers of the local economy than golf courses.

The Full Board Vote

The next day the entire Board of Supervisors weighed-in on the ordinance. The Board of Supervisors is quite different than the Board that existed even two years ago—it is more moderate, and therefore legislation must appeal to the center to have any chance of passing.

This is why we knew that our common-sense, data-driven campaign would be appealing to this Board. Study after study has shown that Sharp Park Golf Course is draining hundreds of thousands of dollars from the City’s coffers annually, while killing two endangered species in the process. Fixing these environmental and financial problems while retaining 18-holes of golf on the land will require massive capital investments—on land that scientists have explained will be lost to climate change-induced sea level rise. A far better plan is to work with Sharp Park’s natural features and create a park everyone can enjoy.


The Board of Supervisors took the Ordinance up in the late afternoon. Supervisor John Avalos first offered some small amendments to the ordinance—all of which were approved. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who has been carrying water for San Mateo County on this issue for years, argued that the ordinance violated the California Environmental Quality Act, but the City’s Environmental Review Officer did not support his claim.

In perhaps the most disingenuous argument, Supervisor Scott Weiner claimed he would not vote for the ordinance because of a policy disagreement with the National Park Service over pet management. But the Supervisor is smart enough to know that walking dogs at Sharp Park is currently illegal, on-leash or off. When a National Park is created on the land, dogs will have much better legal access than they do now. He was clearly trying to avoid debating the measure on the merits, while appealing to Supervisor David Campos—an avowed dog lover—in hopes of peeling away critical votes.

But in the end, Supervisor Eric Mar made a well-reasoned statement about why he supports the ordinance, and referenced the ability of the ordinance to improve golf conditions at City courses; Supervisor David Chiu said he shared our vision and made a small amendment to allow the City to continue to negotiate—but not sign—alternative agreements with other agencies; and Supervisor Jane Kim also expressed her support for our plan. Combined with the votes of Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi, David Campos, and our champion John Avalos, the ordinance passed the full board!

A Team Effort

None of this could have occurred without all our partners helping advance the cause. Michelle Myers of the Sierra Club was particularly crucial in the last few weeks, and the extraordinary commitment of Neal Desai of the National Parks Conservation Association was essential to the success of the campaign. Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity aided with media work, and dozens of volunteers, led by Barbara Beth of the Wild Equity Institute, came through at critical moments. And of course, crucial financial support was also essential, and foundations like the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, and the Fund for Wild Nature played a large role in our success.

What’s Next?

Of course, “it ain’t over ‘till it’s over,” and there are always things that need to be tended. On December 13, the Board will have its required second reading of the ordinance. We do not anticipate any changes at this hearing. From there, the ordinance will be moved to the Mayor for his signature. If he doesn’t act within 10 days, the ordinance becomes law.

Will the Mayor bow to pressure from development interests and wealthy golf extremists who think this game is more valuable than playgrounds for kids, and services for children and seniors? The mayor has yet to meet with us, and we do know he loves his golf. Stay tuned for more information about the Mayor—and make sure you contact him to express your support for restoring Sharp Park!

Mayor Lee Rejects Sharp National Park, Pushes Back-room Golf Development Deal

December 20, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Kerry Kriger, Save the Frogs, (831) 600-5442
Arthur Feinstein, Sierra Club, (415) 680-0643

Mayor Lee Vetoes National Park Partnership Option at Sharp Park

Mayor ignores popular opinion, environmental constraints to push back-room golf development deal

San Francisco— San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee snubbed San Francisco’s political center today by vetoing legislation put forth by environmental and social service organizations. By doing so, he refused to give City policymakers and residents an opportunity to consider a partnership between the City and the National Park Service for long-term management of Sharp Park before a multi-million dollar bailout of the Bay Area’s most controversial golf course is consummated.

The Mayor refused to speak with the organizations that supported the ordinance before acting.

“Mayor Lee’s veto will cost San Francisco millions of dollars, union jobs, and its credibility on environmental issues,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Our coalition will continue to press on all fronts to ensure Sharp Park becomes a public park everyone can enjoy.”

Until now the City has been pursuing a back-room deal with San Mateo County to socialize Sharp Park Golf Course’s costs and privatize the revenue stream so an elite golf development can be constructed on California’s coast. The legislation the Mayor vetoed would have allowed these negotiations to continue, but required the City to also review a partnership option with the National Parks Service, which already manages several properties near Sharp Park. Working with NPS would have allowed the City to consider other feasible options for the land before investing tens of millions into a golf course that will be under water, financially and physically, in the next 50 years.

“Today was an unfortunate day for the democratic process in San Francisco,” said Dr. Kerry Kriger, founder of Save the Frogs, whose supporters sent over 4,000 letters to the City in support of the legislation. “Mayor Lee refused to meet with any environmental group to discuss the issue. His veto extends the death sentence that endangered California red-legged frogs receive every time the City uses taxpayer money to pump Sharp Park’s wetlands out to sea.”

The veto comes days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a central element of San Francisco’s plan to continue golf operations at Sharp Park Golf Course. In a December 8, 2011 letter to the City the Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the City’s application for a “recovery permit” to clear vegetation from wetlands and lagoons that the golf course uses as its drainage system. Instead, the Fish and Wildlife Service stated that the City must either create a habitat conservation plan for Sharp Park or obtain a permit through a formal consultation process for projects that adversely affect endangered species. The letter effectively put the City on notice for civil and criminal penalties should frog egg masses be harmed or moved as a result of golf course operations.

“Mayor Lee and the golf lobby he represents know that their back-room golf development deal for Sharp Park is politically unpopular and will not withstand scrutiny,” said Plater. “So they are trying to prevent the public from having a choice at Sharp Park. We will make sure that the public is given an opportunity to make that choice in 2012.”

“The City is making a poor investment choice for its Recreation and Parks dollars. We will need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to make this golf course operational, and more to make it compliant with Fish and Wildlife standards,” said Arthur Feinstein of the Sierra Club. “In the next 50 years Sharp Park will have to address sea level rise; the properties behind Sharp Park’s sea wall are already experiencing flooding due to a poorly managed water system. Why the City would increase expenditures at Sharp Park when City parks are suffering is beyond me.”

Visit wildequity.org for more information about our campaign to restore Sharp Park.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

Federal Agency Rejects San Francisco’s Sharp Park Plans

December 16, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Arthur Feinstein, Sierra Club, 415-680-0643
Neal Desai, National Parks Conservation Association, (510) 368-0845

Federal Agency Rejects San Francisco’s Sharp Park Plans

Groups call on Mayor to Support Sharp Park Legislation, Address Mounting Problems

SAN FRANCISCO— A central element of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s plan to continue golf operations at Sharp Park Golf Course was rejected by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service last week. The move strengthens the need for San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee to sign legislation approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that would allow City policymakers to consider a new park partnership option with the National Park Service.

For years, the Recreation and Parks Department has tried to convince regulators, the public, and public officials that Sharp Park Golf Course’s operations encourage the recovery of endangered species in the area. But a December 8, 2011 letter from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) denied the Department’s formal attempt to classify golf course activities as a “recovery action.”

In particular, the FWS rejected the Department’s application for a “recovery permit” to clear vegetation from wetlands and lagoons that the golf course uses as its drainage system. Instead, the FWS stated that the Department must either create a habitat conservation plan for Sharp Park or obtain a permit through a formal consultation process for projects that adversely affect endangered species.

“The City is now on notice that its activities are harming endangered species, and that they do not have permits to cause this harm,” said Brent Plater, executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “If the City nonetheless moves forward with its existing golf plans, City employees could be subject to civil and criminal penalties.”

“The City must change management activities at Sharp Park Golf Course to comply with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s directive,” said Neal Desai of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Mayor Lee’s approval of legislation that will allow for a potential partnership with the National Park Service, America’s leading expert in endangered species recovery, will provide opportunities and benefits for the City, including evaluations of feasible options that reduce fines, save San Francisco money, and allow it to sustain park services in San Francisco.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service letter also expressly rejected the Department’s contention that the golf course’s water management activities are beneficial for the California red-legged frog. For years, the City has been pumping water from Sharp Park’s wetlands to prevent flooding on the golf course. This exposes California red-legged frog egg masses to the air, causing the eggs to dry-out and die. Rather than obtain a permit for its pumping operations, the City received emergency authorization to move over 100 egg masses that were stranded at Sharp Park Golf Course during last year’s peak breeding season. The City intended to continue this practice this winter, but the Fish and Wildlife Service letter states that the City will no longer provide this authorization, and the City “must obtain incidental take coverage prior to seeking the movement of any egg masses that may be stranded this winter.”

“If San Francisco is going to retain any credibility in its commitment to protect our endangered wildlife, Mayor Lee needs to support the Sharp Park legislation,” said Arthur Feinstein of the Sierra Club, referencing legislation that would allow San Francisco policymakers the opportunity to review a potential partnership proposal with the National Park Service alongside proposals from San Mateo County.

Environmental groups are currently suing the City for violations of federal endangered species laws. On November 8, Judge Susan Illston decided to withold on-the-ground relief for endangered species until after the lawsuit reaches trial. The Judge’s opinion relied on the City’s assertion that it would move any stranded egg masses this winter pursuant to Fish and Wildlife Service authorization. Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected this request, the City must change its golf course operations. Extensive evidence of harm to red-legged frogs at the golf course last winter shows that the Park Department’s endangered species “compliance plan” has failed.

More information on the Sharp Park legislation:

The golf course at 400-acre Sharp Park is plagued by crumbling infrastructure, annual flooding problems and ongoing environmental violations. The site is home to two federally protected species, the California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake. Three dozen San Francisco community, recreation, environmental and social-justice groups have called for closing the golf course and creating a more sustainable public park at Sharp Park.

This month the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation that would begin a restoration planning process for Sharp Park. The legislation is a preliminary step to an agreement with the Park Service for long-term managament of Sharp Park. If the legislation is not vetoed by Mayor Ed Lee, the Park Service is expected to work in partnership with the City to develope a management agreement with Sharp Park. Any management plan would go through an environmental review process, public review and hearings, and come back to the Board of Supervisors for final approval. The legislation allows the City to negotiate with other parties to manage the park, such as San Mateo County or Pacifica, but ensures city decision-making considers the potential Park Service partnership proposal as well.

The Park Service is expected to propose restoring the site to coastal habitat with a trail network and other public-serving amenities. Sharp Park is within the legislative boundary of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and adjacent to the Park Service’s Mori Point, where a successful, multimillion-dollar wildlife habitat and trail restoration project accommodates neighbors, school groups and families in a community-based model of park creation. Coastal restoration experts released a scientific study and restoration proposal for Sharp Park showing that removing the golf course and restoring the natural lagoon, wetlands and beach processes is the least costly and only sustainable solution for the land. Restoration will provide the most public benefit and best protect endangered species, at much less expense than the Park Department’s costly plan to dredge wetlands and physically alter golf holes.

If a long-term management plan is reached that closes the golf course, a transition plan would allow for continuation of golf during the planning phase under certain conditions that safeguard endangered species. Pacifica residents would be allowed to pay San Francisco resident rates at San Francisco’s five other golf courses and jobs held at Sharp Park golf course would be redeployed from Pacifica to San Francisco, to help improve neighborhood recreation and park facilities within San Francisco. Lincoln Golf Course, a potential beneficiary of these new staff resources, was identified in a 2007 National Golf Foundation study as needing increased maintenance staff to improve course conditions to attract more players and revenue.

Visit wildequity.org for more information about our campaign to Restore Sharp Park.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

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What do Elizabeth Taylor, Barry Bonds, and the Wild Equity Institute Have in Common?

The classic beauty, the troubled slugger, and the Wild Equity Institute’s campaign to restore Sharp Park were all on the front page of the San Francisco chronicle on Thursday, March 24, 2011.
Click here to see a .pdf of the article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

Now send a letter to the editor
thanking the paper for running this important story. Remind all San Franciscans that all the available evidence indicates that Sharp Park was once a backbarrier fresh to brackish lagoon, not a saline tidal lagoon as the proponents of the status quo allege in this article. That means we can restore the natural system while preserving endangered species at Sharp Park. In the process we’ll build a better public park with recreation opportunities everyone can enjoy.

 

Peer-reviewed Scientific Study Calls for Restoring Sharp Park

February 10, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
  Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185

First Peer-reviewed Scientific Study of Sharp Park:
Removing Golf Course, Creating New Public Park Is Least Costly, Best Option

San Francisco — A new scientific report by independent scientists and engineers says that the most cost-effective option for Pacifica’s Sharp Park is to remove the golf course and restore the functions of the original natural ecosystem, which will also provide the most benefit to endangered species. Experts on coastal lagoon ecosystems have prepared the first ever peer-reviewed restoration study for Sharp Park, an 18-month assessment of Laguna Salada and Sanchez Creek. The report makes several key findings:

  • Restoring Sharp Park is the cheapest public option, particularly compared to the San Francisco Park Department plan or the option of maintaining the status quo.
  • Restoring the natural processes of the lagoon and surrounding wetlands will provide the best flood protection for neighbors against sea-level rise and coastal storm events.
  • Removing the golf course to restore habitat to the east of the lagoon is essential for the long-term sustainability of endangered species found on the site.

“This report lays out how we can create a better public park at Sharp Park that everyone can enjoy, while saving taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Brent Plater, director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Restoring Sharp Park is the sensible decision for our pocketbooks and our hiking boots.”

The new restoration alternative would allow beneficial natural processes to reconfigure the Laguna Salada wetlands and beach to a natural dynamic, providing the most benefit to endangered species, protecting the beach from erosion, ensuring resilience and adaptivity for habitat to respond to sea-level rise, and improving flood protection for adjacent residential areas, all with lower long-term costs and maintenance requirements. The authors of the report and peer-reviewers have unparalleled expertise in Bay Area coastal and aquatic ecology and wildlife, hydrology, coastal engineering and ecosystem restoration.

“This is the first credible scientific evaluation of how to revive the Laguna Salada wetlands and nearby habitat for the long-term survival of the San Francisco garter snake and red-legged frog,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s clear the best option for Sharp Park in terms of economy, environment and recreation is removing the golf course and restoring a functioning natural ecosystem. Adding the park to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is the most common-sense approach for wildlife and taxpayers.”

The report findings clear up some common misconceptions put forth by supporters of the golf course and the Park Department, among them:

  • Laguna Salada was historically a brackish-fresh water lagoon, not a saline tidal lagoon, and it supported thriving populations of the San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frog;
  • The golf course did not “create” freshwater habitat for the frog and snake;
  • The sea wall is not necessary for protecting endangered species habitat or to prevent flooding of neighborhoods; it is, in fact, contributing to flood risk and the unsustainable character of the existing land use.

The new restoration plan is estimated to cost about $5 million over a 50-year time frame. In contrast, the Park Department preferred plan would drain taxpayers of between $12 million and $18 million in short-term costs (including seawall construction) along with hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for infrastructure operations and maintenance, and continuing liability for fines for Endangered Species Act violations.

“The restoration proposed by these experts is the most responsive to modern recreational demands and meets the restoration directive by the city’s board of supervisors,” said Miller. “The Park Department’s 2009 golf enhancement plan would squeeze endangered species between the uninhabitable golf course and the seawall, limiting suitable habitat and forcing freshwater species into the areas most impacted by rising sea levels and salinity. It would also bleed taxpayers indefinitely to pay for expensive and futile infrastructure and cause erosion that would destroy the beach.”

A conceptual public park model for Sharp Park,  emphasizing sustainable flood management,  adaptation to sea level rise, modern recreation opportunities,  and endangered species protection.

A conceptual public park model for Sharp Park, emphasizing sustainable flood management, adaptation to sea level rise, modern recreation opportunities, and endangered species protection.

The report was prepared by engineers and aquatic ecologists with expertise in coastal restoration from the consulting firms ESAPWA and Ecological Studies, along with coastal ecologist Dr. Peter Baye. It was peer-reviewed by experts in historical and coastal ecology at the San Francisco Estuary Institute and San Jose State University.

Read the report
and a summary of its key findings and recommendations along with the relevant experience of the report authors and reviewers. For more information on Sharp Park visit the Wild Equity Institute’s Restore Sharp Park web page.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

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