Peer-reviewed Scientific Study Calls for Restoring Sharp Park

February 10, 2011


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.


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