Shooting excluded from activities proposed at former Lake Merced gun club site

Kayaking, fishing, bocce ball, yoga, farmers markets — those are among the activities proposed at the former Pacific Rod and Gun Club site along Lake Merced.

Notably absent from that list is trap and skeet shooting, an activity practiced for eight decades after the gun club opened in 1934 at the 14-acre site. Members of the gun club, which over the years drew the likes of Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable, fired their last shots there in April 2015 when the club closed ahead of a $22 million cleanup in the area.

The cleanup involves removing soil contaminated by lead pellets and clay pigeons used by the gun club prior to 1994, when the club switched to nontoxic steel shots and biodegradable targets, more environmentally friendly alternatives.

Now The City is ready to find a new tenant for the site, where there are about 11 usable acres and 14 acres overall, making it the watershed’s largest area of flat land outside TPC Harding Park, The City’s premier golf course.

While the Pacific Rod and Gun Club had expected to submit a proposal for the site, members were dismayed to learn restrictions in the request for proposals prevented them from throwing their hat in the ring. Specifically, the RFP prohibits recreational activities “that would result in direct deposition of any waste, hazardous material or foreign substance” at the site, which gun club members say prevents them from shooting there.

But they haven’t given up hope that shooting will return to the site in some form.

The Recreation and Park Department, which manages recreation at Lake Merced, earlier this year solicited requests for proposals for the site and plans to recommend a proposal to the Recreation and Park Commission in the fall.

On Thursday, the one group that submitted a proposal, Lake Merced Recreation LLC, will present its plans for the area at a community meeting.

As part of its proposal, the recreation group — led by Bay Area entrepreneurs Jay Ganjei of Outback Adventures and Paul Foley of Greener Excavations & Construction Inc. — would refurbish the existing buildings as well as construct new buildings, and rent out some of the facilities to recreation and fitness leaders in San Francisco.

“All of the … activities and facilities have been chosen specifically to encourage general public participation and to be complementary to the surrounding watershed resources,” the proposal reads.

But members of the former Pacific Rod and Gun Club, including the club’s most recent president, Patrick Gilligan, are still hopeful they will bring trap and skeet shooting back to the site.

“We would have loved to submit an RFP, but the way it was written basically precluded any sort of shooting activities from existing there because essentially they said no foreign items can be deposited in the lake,” Gilligan said. “It was physically impossible for us to continue shooting.”

Sarah Madland, a spokesperson for Rec and Park, said the request for proposals did not explicitly prohibit shooting, and gun club members were invited to submit a proposal.

“There was an entire RFP process that they were welcome to participate in if they could meet those requirements,” Madland said. “That is now closed and we will be going through the public review process.”

Still, the group remains optimistic that they will convince Recreation and Park commissioners to amend the language in the request for proposals to allow for shooting at the site.

“It would be the greenest trap and skeet shooting facility in the country,” said San Francisco resident Michael Emery, who helped craft the club’s proposal that was never submitted.

The loss of the Pacific Rod and Gun Club was further compounded when the Chabot Gun Club in Castro Valley closed to the public on Labor Day, Gilligan noted.

“It’s just another one of these gun clubs that has been getting closed,” he said. “It’s hard not to think it’s not political.”

Dennis Staats, president of the Chabot Gun Club, said the closure of that club coupled with the recent cessation of rifle and pistol lines at the United Sportsmen ranges in Concord leaves the Bay Area with nearly 50 percent less available shooting space.

“That’s a tremendous hit to the recreational shooting community,” Staats said.

Laura Dudnick

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