Bermuda Dunes Country Club

An environmental group invoked the Endangered Species Act in a federal lawsuit that attempted to close Sharp Park GC in San Francisco. If the effort had been successful, “it would have affected thousands of golf courses around the country,” according to Craig Kessler, the SCGA’s director of governmental affairs.

After failing to secure the closure of San Francisco’s Sharp Park Municipal GC through the political process, the Tucson based Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed an Endangered Species lawsuit in Federal District Court in 2011 alleging that operations at the 80-year old Alister MacKenzie designed golf course were killing the rare frogs and snakes that colonized the property after the dredging that accompanied the construction of the golf course in the 1920’s.

Late last week the Court dismissed the lawsuit citing an Oct. 2 opinion of the US Wildlife Service that found that golf at Sharp Park is “not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the California red-legged frog or San Francisco garter snake.” This effectively ended the legal portion of the dispute.

Much more was at stake in this political and legal battle than the continued existence of one public golf course at the intersection of San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. CBD chose San Francisco figuring that the political waters would be more receptive there than anywhere else on the West Coast. They were wrong. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, the San Mateo Board of Supervisors and a majority of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors supported the golf course in this fight. More accurately, they supported golf course preservation in conjunction with habitat recovery – a “balanced” approach to the matter.

Loss of this political battle at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors would have been damaging; loss of the lawsuit would have been catastrophic. There is little doubt that CBD would have filed similar suits up and down the West Coast.

While many came to the aid of the cause, financially and otherwise, including the SCGA, and “many” are always central in any political/legal fight, the “many” are hard pressed to prevail without strong leadership. Richard Harris and Bo Links, founders and sustainers of the “San Francisco Public Golf Alliance,” provided that leadership. Golfers throughout the State of California owe them an incalculable debt of gratitude.

Questions or comments on this recent decision? Email Director of Governmental Affairs, Craig Kessler at ckessler@scga.org.