SAN GERONIMO, Calif. - Marin County's San Geronimo Valley is likely to become a battleground as a golf course in distress and for sale has become either an opportunity or a point of contention.
A national non-profit, The Trust For Public Land, has made an offer on the $8.7 million San Geronimo Golf Course, intending to secure the 157 acres for Marin County to eventually purchase it. "This is a special piece of property from a conservation standpoint," said The Trust's Brendan Moriarty. "It is adjacent to county open spaces on both sides of the San Geronimo Valley floor. So you have the opportunity to connect open space for everyone to enjoy and conserve this community resource."
Translated, that means it would quite possibly cease to be a golf course. "We have a lot of parks in Marin and I enjoy all of them, but for golfers, this is golfing heaven," said Sherri McDannold after finishing her round.
She's not alone in her concern. "As golf courses get eliminated, prices go up and the cost of the game will make it more difficult for people to play," added golfer Keith Vaughn.
But, there is more at stake, as Todd Steiner, director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network explained while exploring a fish ladder next to the course. "This property has the largest concentration of Coho spawning left in the state of California. Right now there are Coho salmon in there that hatched last winter and early spring." Steiner would like to see the Coho and Steelhead, here, prosper by having the golf course restored to nature, with hiking trails, wetlands, and redwood trees. "A lot more people would use this habitat as a park than those who golf."
Sherri McDannold, among other golfers, disagrees. "We have a lot of parks and I enjoy them all, but this is golfing heaven."
"I live here," said golfer Kevin Miller. "The open spaces are already connected. People walk their dogs on this course. I see herons and egrets out here because of the water. Find a compromise. I think there is space for an Audubon rated golf course. You can have a golf course and also have the Coho salmon spawning."
"This golf course has coexisted with nature, but not at the level that will allow these fish to survive in the long term," said Steiner.
When ABC7 News asked if The Trust for Public Land has a preference between the land continuing as a golf course or converting it to a preserve, Brendan Moriarty said, "We don't have a dog in that fight. We are here to empower community. We do conservation and parks for people. The Trust for Public Land has bought courses across this country to keep them as public golf courses. We never come in deciding what the future should look like."
"I think it's a great opportunity," said Ari Golan, the area superintendent for Marin County Parks. Ultimately, the Marin County Board of Supervisors will decide if it wants to purchase this land, and after public comment, how to use it.
"We love this course," said golfer Keith Vaughn.
"I suspect there will be unhappy people," admitted Todd Steiner.
And so, the battle lines, still in a drafting phase.