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Lawn mowing an issue at Pacifica golf course, environmentalists say

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Six environmental groups want San Francisco to stop pumping water and mowing lawns at the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica. - EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Examiner file photo
  • Six environmental groups want San Francisco to stop pumping water and mowing lawns at the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica.

A federal judge in San Francisco heard arguments Friday but deferred ruling on a bid by six conservation groups for a preliminary injunction that would limit pumping and mowing activities at the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica.

The golf course covers part of the 417-acre Sharp Park in Pacifica. The park is owned by the city of San Francisco, which has operated it as an 18-hole public golf course since it opened in 1932.

The environmental groups claim maintenance activities at the golf course harm two imperiled species: the San Francisco garter snake, which is listed as an endangered species, and the California red-legged frog, a threatened species.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston took the case under submission after hearing arguments and did not say when she will rule.

The groups seeking an injunction include the Wild Equity Institute, the Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association.

They claim that pumping at Horse Stable Pond in the park causes frog egg masses and tadpoles to be stranded and dried, and that grass mowing and the use of motorized golf carts kills garter snakes.

Howard Crystal, a lawyer for the groups, told Illston that without an injunction, "It's clear that this winter it's going to rain, water will collect, the city will pump and egg masses will be desiccated."

The preliminary injunction, if granted, would halt pumping of the pond and stop mowing at holes nine through 18 until further proceedings in the case.

Lawyers for the city maintain that San Francisco is taking responsible measures to protect the two species and that a ban on pumping would destroy the golf course while not helping the frog.

The city has been joined in the case by the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, which says the golf course is a historic resource that provides thousands of players each year with "an affordable and unique golfing experience."