Friday, August 2, 2013

Sharp Park Golf Course would be better protected by San Mateo County

Pacifica Tribune/My Turn Guest Column, 7/30/13.  "For the General Welfare" by Paul Slavin

 Golf and wildlife coexist everywhere  
Red legged frogs?  Yes we're ugly and endangered, but we're fine at Sharp Park Golf Course. 
"People my age, that is, people who can look back on some fifty or sixty years of life, often have the uneasy feeling that things just don't work as well as they once did. I mean big things, like the government, the economy, politics — to some extent, our society in general. I've felt that way for years. This perception is supported in a remarkable new book entitled "The Unwinding — An Inner History of the New America" by George Packer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). It chronicles the lives of several ordinary Americans (and some not-so-ordinary) dealing with the breakdown of the American social compact over the last thirty years. Lives that, in the words of one reviewer, "have been transformed by the dissolution of all the things that used to hold us together." A sense of the Common Good, or as the Constitution calls it, the General Welfare, seems to have withered, often replaced by extremist interest groups with narrow, self-serving agendas.

Which brings me to the long campaign against the Sharp Park Golf Course. Plaintiffs Wild Equity Institute, et al, were soundly defeated in their latest judicial attempt to close the historic old course, and the Judge offered them 25 cents on the dollar for their attorney's fee request. But in the litigious tradition of the radical wing of the environmental movement, Wild Equity executive director Brent Plater has threatened another 10 years of lawsuits. Actually, I don't think they'll be back in court again anytime soon, unless it's to file appeals from decisions that went against them. The only reason Plaintiffs received even their sharply reduced award was that S.F. Park & Rec Dept. inexplicably delayed for months in applying for the required permit. Whether the lapse was due to an over-burdened staff, a faulty judgment or just bureaucratic inertia, the situation is unlikely to arise again. Remember, in five long years, that permit ploy was the best case Plater could come up with. Federal Judge Susan Illston would have little patience for an even more frivolous lawsuit. Plater's threats ring hollow to all but his most ardent followers.

Sharp Park is in the best shape it's been in for many years, with golfers young and old enjoying its stunning natural beauty while playing a challenging and rewarding course. A recent tournament hosted over 250 participants from throughout the Bay Area. Environmental questions have been answered with comprehensive maintenance and operational plans, accredited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which safeguard protected species and critical habitat. 

But the Wild Equity Institute isn't just giving up, and, these days, there's always the chance that something could go wrong. And the loss of the 85-year-old Alister MacKenzie-designed municipal masterpiece would be an absolute disaster for Pacifica, a civic and cultural blow that would be hard to withstand. The wisest course is to transfer control of Sharp Park from the political tinderbox of San Francisco to the willing hands of San Mateo County. This move has been under consideration for some time now, and we can only hope, for the sake of the General Welfare, it is swiftly implemented."

Note:  Permission to reprint this article in full was received from Paul Slavin.  Photograph and frog graphic from Out and Back, golf/travel/commentary.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

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