Sharp Park lawsuit thrown out

By Adam Lawrence

A US federal judge has dismissed the long-running attempt by conservation groups to close the San Francisco-owned Sharp Park golf course, originally designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie.

The suit, brought a selection of grounds including the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, alleged that golf operations at Sharp Park are killing rare frogs and snakes, in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.

Judge Susan Illston threw the case out of court on 6 December, citing an opinion issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service that golf at Sharp Park is “not likely to jeopardise the continued existence of the California red-legged frog or San Francisco garter snake.”

“This is a common sense result,” said Chris Carr, of the Morrison and Foerster office, lawyers for co-defendant San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, which brought the motion to dismiss. “And it should lead to a period of cooperation in which San Francisco and San Mateo County can work together to restore habitat for the species, while preserving historic and popular public recreation.”

The dismissal of the case is an important step along a path that local golf enthusiasts hope will lead to a restoration of MacKenzie's design. Architect Jay Blasi is working on plans for the restoration project. “When MacKenzie designed Sharp Park, he created the lagoon and a stretch of holes that played between the lagoon and the ocean,” Blasi told the golfclubatlas.com website in a recent interview. “Within ten years of opening, however, those holes were abandoned due to storm damage and flooding and four new holes were created inland across the highway. The rest of the routing remains in place (although different sequence). The greens and bunkers have lost the MacKenzie character over time, but knowledgeable golfers can see the rough outlines of what was there. We have studied the history of the site and the evolution of the course and we believe we can save the course, offer improved conditions for players and creatures, restore the MacKenzie features and maybe recapture one or more of the lost holes.”

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