Protect San Geronimo Valley open space for all

02/05/2020

Fresh off a successful David vs. Goliath battle to protect the Marin Headlands from suburban development in 1972, Marin residents Huey Johnson, Marty Rosen and Doug Ferguson founded the Trust for Public Land with the goal of protecting land for people. Today, the trust is a highly respected nonprofit that has created and enhanced more than 4,000 public parks nationwide, including over 750 parks in California. We also own the former San Geronimo Golf Course—157 acres of gentle open space in the heart of Marin that offers an unparalleled opportunity to realize our conservation mission while creating a park for everyone to enjoy. 

We are not alone in our hope for the land. San Geronimo Creek, which flows through the property, supports the strongest remaining endangered coho salmon run in the Bay Area, as well as threatened steelhead. So important is the property to these species that our restoration partner, Trout Unlimited, views it as a critical, regionally significant opportunity for holistic ecosystem restoration.

Golf courses require a lot of water and pesticides to stay green. The San Geronimo course was a top water user in Marin County, a fact that is increasingly untenable in our state, which knows droughts all too well. And in the final two years of San Geronimo’s private operation, the former owners applied pesticides nearly 900 times, including toxins like glyphosate and Fumitoxin. Our commitment to restore this land and water has earned us the support of every leading environmental organization in Marin, including the Sierra Club, the Marin Conservation League and the Marin Audubon Society. No on D is a vote for the environment.

We’re excited about the opportunity to bring the land back to health using regenerative practices that strengthen and support the native ecosystem and contribute to greater climate resiliency. While remediation takes time, the results are vital for flora, fauna and people. 

The property also presents an opportunity to make space for a new, badly needed fire headquarters that will serve all of Marin. This opportunity has broad support in the community but would be lost forever if the measure passes. That’s why the Marin County Fire Department Firefighters Association endorses No on D. No on D is a vote for fire safety.

True to our mission, we don’t just save land—we save land for people to enjoy. A key part of all our projects is robust community engagement, and San Geronimo is no exception. For the past two years we’ve met intensively with individuals and community groups—one-on-one, in small groups, and at open houses and workshops—to better understand how this land can support the community. We learned a lot: There is great interest in turning the old clubhouse into a central community asset, such as an educational center, a farm-to-table restaurant, a venue for local events or a conference space. And the project presents a unique opportunity to create an outdoor classroom for kids and teachers to learn about real-time restoration projects. No on D is a vote for the community.

One thing is certain: Bringing golf back is not an option. Throughout 2018 we met with golf experts and studied the options to understand whether golf was a viable ongoing use of the land. The answer was no. The hard truth is that public golf is not economically feasible on this property, which is not surprising, given national trends. More than 800 golf courses have closed nationally, and the number of rounds played declined steadily at San Geronimo, too. No on D is a vote for fiscal responsibility.

The golf course closed over a year ago, and it is already beginning to flourish with life. We see young families with strollers and toddlers in tow; wobbly kindergarteners on their first two-wheelers; coveys of middle-school bike riders; hard-fought soccer and frisbee matches; dog walkers; family picnickers; bird watchers; and elders with hiking poles. In October, local schools brought together schoolchildren from throughout the country for some exuberant cross-county racing on the property, enabled by the tunnel under Sir Francis Drake that allows safe, unimpeded passage from one side of the road to the other. 

Measure D seeks to change the San Geronimo Valley Community Plan to require golf as the primary use of the land. Proponents want to substitute a countywide vote for the local community plan and dictate this use to a private landowner. Measure D is misguided, legally and practically uncertain, and tantamount to a special-interest land grab. It would not bring back golf, but it would stymie efforts to pursue restoration, recreation and community uses. 

There are so many possibilities for this beautiful, 157-acre property, and we’re eager to achieve the best outcome possible for the community. To do so, we need your help. Please join the Marin County Fire Department Firefighters Association, leading conservation groups, over 40 elected and appointed officials, and dozens of community leaders in voting no on Measure D in March. No on D is a vote for all of Marin!

 

Guillermo Rodriguez is the state director for the Trust for Public Land, responsible for developing and leading programmatic activities throughout California.