Sharp Park levee project raises environmentalists’ ire

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerThe Recreation and Park Department recently added boulders to a levee near Pacifica’s Sharp Park Golf Course

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerThe Recreation and Park Department recently added boulders to a levee near Pacifica’s Sharp Park Golf Course

A project that repaired a beachfront pathway adjacent to the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica has environmental groups once again concerned about the direction of the San Francisco-maintained property.

The Recreation and Park Department, which manages the Sharp Park open space and golf course, recently completed a small re-grading project on a levee that acts as a path along the beach. The department filled in some potholes and leveled off the berm in some places, but it also left behind a new pile of large boulders on the beach.

The Surfrider Foundation and the Wild Equity Institute — two environmental groups that have sued Rec and Park over its plans for the coastal golf course — consider the boulder placement an act of “armoring” the beach, a practice shunned by conservationists.

Armoring landscapes by placing bulwarks like boulders and other heavy debris reduces the size of the beachfront and interferes with natural erosion processes, said Brent Plater of the Wild Equity Institute. The Pacifica coastline outside of Sharp Park is already heavily armored, Plater said.

With the new boulders on Rec and Park property near the beach, Plater said he’s fearful that the department is planning on armoring the area near Sharp Park to prevent erosion from creeping into the nearby golf course, which would go against the department’s stated goal of allowing natural management of the coastline.

Rec and Park spokeswoman Sarah Ballard said the department has no plans to armor the Sharp Park coastline, and that the levee project constitutes a minuscule fraction of the beachfront levee. Because the potholes on the levee were so large, the new boulders were necessary to keep the infill from seeping out, Ballard said. She also noted that the project was approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, a national body that oversees coastal development projects.

The Surfrider Foundation has filed a letter about its concerns to the California Coastal Commission, and the state regulatory agency is now reviewing the work carried out by Rec and Park. Bill McLaughlin, a member of the foundation, said he is hopeful that state regulators will require Rec and Park to remove the boulders.

“This beach is very popular and used by many people for many different purposes, from fishing to surfing to walking the path,” McLaughlin said. “We’re afraid that it’s going to vanish.”

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