Parks For All:
Support A New Marin County Park in San Geronimo
background of the property
The San Geronimo Golf Course is an 18 hole public course that spans 157-acres at the center of the San Geronimo Valley floor near the villages of Woodacre, San Geronimo, Forest Knolls, and Lagunitas. The course was constructed in 1965, intended for use as a private course, but was unsuccessful in selling enough memberships to support the course and soon converted to a public course (1) which remained the primary use of the property until it was listed for sale in 2017.
The Trust for Public Land acquired the property in December 2017, after an independent, expert financial analysis indicated the golf course was unlikely to survive at the location, so rapid action was needed to ensure the community could continue to benefit from the land and influence its future use. However, the future use of the property is currently unclear, as a lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has delayed public planning efforts.
You can make a difference by telling the Marin County Supervisors that you support the creation of a public park in the San Geronimo Valley! Creating a park will serve a broad base of community constituents, provide several critical environmental benefits, and be a lasting legacy and gift to the current and future generations of Marin County and the San Geronimo Valley. Click the above button to be routed to an action page to submit comments to the Supervisors and the Trust for Public Land.
property ACQUISITION by Marin county parks
In the fall of 2017, the San Geronimo Golf Course was listed for sale, an offer was made and accepted by the Trust for Public Land and Marin County Parks (Parks). The intention of the purchase is to maintain the San Geronimo Valley's rural character for future generations by creating a public park and restoring critical habitat.
The Trust for Public Land acquired ownership of the property at the end of December 2017, with the intention to transfer the title to Parks for 50% of the total purchase price. On December 12, 2017, Marin County's Board of Supervisor's approved Parks' plans to acquire the property and Parks took over management and planning. As a result, Parks began seeking funds for public planning and to finalize the County purchase from the Trust for Public Land. Golf operations also ceased at this time. In response to public concerns over the removal of golf during the planning process, Parks promised to find an interim operator (now Touchstone Golf) to resume golf for two-years while the County moved through the public planning and visioning process. The county’s two-year agreement with Touchstone Golf provides for up to $140,000 in annual subsidies for operations.
From January to March, limited public access was allowed on the property for pedestrians, dogs on leash, and bikes on paved pathways. At the end of March, the County announced they found a interim operator, Touchstone Golf, to resume golf operations on the course in April and remove continued public access.
Parks and the Board of Supervisors received several letters from organizations, individuals, and families stating their concerns with the removal of public access on the property. From 2017 - 2018, EAC provided written and verbal public comments to the Board of Supervisors supporting the acquisition of the property for use as a park and voiced concerns over the removal of public access, as it prevented people in the Valley from the opportunity to connect with the land and be able to fully participate in the public visioning process. In our public testimony, we advocated for weekly public access to the golf course during the interim operations. The Board of Supervisors were receptive to the concerns over the loss of continued public access and requested Parks return in 60-days with a plan to include public access on the property.
In July 2018, in part due to EAC and other's advocacy, Parks and Touchstone Golf announced limited public access allowances at the property that includes access portions of the course on Sunday afternoons and one Friday a month. Since that time, we have witnessed a growing number of individuals and families taking advantage of the property for cycling, teaching children to ride bikes, running, walking, picnicking, dog walking, bird watching, photography, and fishing (in the ponds). We are able to see a glimpse of a true vision of the future use of the property as a public space. Touchstone Golf also announced a family programming series that includes movie nights on the green, community dinners, and a holiday event.
legal challenges to the county's aCquisition
On November 14, 2017, the Board of Supervisors
unanimously adopted Resolution No. 2017-126 authorizing the purchase of the San Geronimo Golf Course from the Trust for Public Land, finding that the purchase is exempt from CEQA, and authorizing the execution of a purchase and sale agreement.
Following the Resolution, the San Geronimo Advocates (an organized group of golfers and residents), filed a lawsuit on December 5, 2017 in Marin County Superior Court, arguing that Marin County failed to meet the requirements of a CEQA exemption. The Marin County Board of Supervisors adopted the December 12, 2017 Resolution Number 2017-135 approving the purchase of the golf course property.
At the end of June 2018, Judge Paul Haakenson issued a preliminary injunction, which blocked Parks' ability to complete the purchase and begin the public visioning and planning process. San Geronimo Advocates filings stated that the "County committed to a 'project' that included not only the purchase of property, but a definite course of action that required CEQA analysis, without having engaged in such analysis." We are concerned that this lawsuit could set a bad precedent for other public land acquisition and conservation projects in the state and region.
The injunction stops all efforts around fundraising, closing escrow, public planning, and prevents Parks from providing ranger programming for the public like art in the park, biking with a ranger, etc. All Parks sponsored outings and activities planned at the property were cancelled.
A hearing on the merits is scheduled for October 12, 2018. More updates will be posted later as this progresses. Review the court's record of actions as of 8/30/18.
EAC SUPPORTS THE CREATION OF A PARK, BECAUSE IT WILL HAVE WIDE RANGING ECOLOGICAL AND COMMUNITY BENEFITS.
EAC strongly supports the acquisition of the golf course property and its transition into a public park. Creation of public lands and support for maximum acquisition of public lands by federal, state, and county parks is a foundational element of EAC.
The conversion of the property to a park and restoration of habitat will create several ecological benefits for the upper watershed of Lagunitas Creek and Tomales Bay watershed that will improve endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout habitats and water quality; minimize and/or eliminate the use of fertilizers and pesticides; save water; protect migratory birds, threatened status species like the Northern Spotted Owl, and other native plants and animals; and result in additional tree plantings.
With the current federal administration’s recent threats to endangered species, it is critical to strengthen local protections and restoration efforts before it is too late to save species from extinction. Restoration of creek and floodplain habitats will capture sediments, particles, and pollutants that will result in improved downstream water quality, thus improving habitat. Restoration to the riparian corridor by planting native species will improve the health and populations of migratory and nesting birds, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, and other native wildlife. These efforts will also result in the long-term sequestration of carbon.
The creation of a public park within the heart of the San Geronimo Valley provides several new opportunities for community use and public safety. The property can be used for several community public access benefits like bicycling, walking, dog walking, picnicking, birdwatching, photography, and exploration.
The property is uniquely positioned and borders the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, middle school, and elementary schools. Utilizing the existing pathways on the property for pedestrian and bicycle traffic will remove children from the high traffic, small shoulder of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. In addition, the Community Center, middle school, and elementary schools could utilize the network of pathways for safe access for increased educational opportunities to access Roy’s Redwoods Marin County Open Space Preserve and other areas of San Geronimo Valley for activities including field trips and exercise.
WIDESPREAD COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR A PARK
In the winter of 2017, many local organizations submitted individual letters and provided public testimony supporting the acquisition of the property and the public planning and visioning process for conversion to a public park. In August of 2018, EAC organized 17 local environmental and community groups to send a letter to the Marin County Supervisors in support of the acquisition.
How you can support A PARK
Members of the public can get involved in several ways to support the acquisition of the property by Parks. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to restore habitat in a critical watershed.
You can make a difference by telling the Marin County Supervisors
you support the creation of a public park! Creating a park will serve a broad base of community constituents, provide several critical environmental benefits,
and be a lasting legacy and gift to the current and future generations
of Marin County and the San Geronimo Valley.
Click the below button to be routed to an Action Page where you can easily let the Supervisors and the Trust for Public Land know you support creating a new public park in Marin County!
OTHER WAYS to SUPPORT THE PARK
GET OUTSIDE. Support the public access hours on Sunday afternoons (3pm-Sunset on the front nine holes) and the third Friday afternoons (3pm-Sunset on the back nine holes) to picnic, ride bikes, play on the lawns, and walk your dog.
SPEAK OUT. Attend public meetings and speak in support of creating a park, public access, and for the protection of habitat and species. The public is welcome at any Supervisors meeting and can make a short statement of their support for a public park during open session.
WRITE. Write a letter to the editor at your local paper telling your story of support for conservation and public access.
STAY UP TO DATE
Follow the recent news on the golf course property acquisition:
Marin County Parks - San Geronimo Property Acquisition
Page last updated: August 30, 2018
1. San Geronimo Valley Community Plan, History, page 11-10, December 22, 1997.
2. Injunction freezes Marin fundraising for San Geronimo Golf Course purchase, Marin IJ, July 18, 2018