Short golf lease signed

03/29/2018

Marin County supervisors took another step forward in the contentious purchase of the San Geronimo Golf Course on Tuesday, bringing in a third-party operator to run the golf course on a two-year contract and, separately, accepting grant funds to use for the planning process. 

Touchstone Golf, a Texas-based company that operates a number of public courses in the Bay Area, plans to open the course as soon as April 14. The company, whose two-year contract includes two more one-year options, was only one of several operators that responded to the county’s request for proposal. Besides having experience operating municipal golf courses, Touchstone also has experience working on short-term contracts with bank-owned golf courses, reasons the county cited for selecting it. 

Mark Luthman, the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said Touchstone will be interviewing former employees within the week.

Supervisors also accepted a $150,000 grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy that will go toward the development of a community visioning process centered on the future use of the land. That process, which parks officials expect will take a year or more, will include restoration and reuse reports, project schedules and a feasibility analysis on how to accomplish goals. 

During the meeting, Supervisor Katie Sears asked about a part of the agreement that said the county would match the $150,000 grant. The language said that any funds needed beyond the grant would be covered by the general fund and Measure A bond money. 

Before the vote, the language was changed to cap any excess spending to $150,000.

Eventually, the county will draft a master plan for what Max Korten, director and general manager of Marin County Parks, called “an important watershed [and] the gateway to West Marin.” “The main reason that the county took action is to acquire the property for the creek,” he said. 

Mr. Korten said supervisors expect to vote on accepting a $3.4 million grant from the California Wildlife Conservation Board sometime in the fall. That grant could help the county rededicate the water that was used for irrigation on the course to Larsen and San Geronimo Creeks. 

Multiple groups were represented at Tuesday’s meeting, including SPAWN, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin and the San Geronimo Advocates. The latter has sued the county over alleged violations of the California Environmental Quality Act. Comments expressed wildly differing opinions about ecology, recreation and land use. 

Amelia “Niz” Brown, the named petitioner in the San Geronimo Advocates lawsuit, said nothing in the agreement to accept the conservancy grant mentioned the possible continued presence of a golf course. 

Addressing that concern, Mr. Korten said it was “unlikely that golf will be a long-term part of the park.” 

Ms. Brown also cited a study by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that said the golf course could co-exist with restoration. She asked the board to not proceed with the conservancy grant, but welcomed Touchstone effusively. 

Morgan Patton, executive director of the E.A.C., was one of a number of people who spoke up about public access. She praised the recent public access to the land, and expressed hopes that even if the course is operational, public access will continue.

Mr. Korten said the parks department and Touchstone will look into how to maximize public access over the next two months.