Parkway Golf Courses & Illegal Camping

In this article from the City Parks Blog we see an idea worthy of local consideration; for instance, could the two golf courses in the Parkway, Campus Commons and Ancil Hoffman, be put to better use?

Some time ago, in another vein, an idea was presented, and not completely in jest, by some residents of the Woodlake neighborhood who have been dealing with the corrosive impact of illegal camping in the Parkway for decades; that the Ancil Hoffman Park Golf Course be designated a homeless campground.

An excerpt from the City Parks article.

“The unforgiving waves of the Pacific Ocean have not been kind to the golf course in San Francisco’s Sharp Park. Of its 18 original holes, designed by renowned architect Alistair MacKenzie, only 11 remain. The rest fell victim to a winter storm in 1938. Though renewed with a seawall three years later, the course is today still subjected to annual inundations that render it unplayable for months.

“Sharp Park’s erosion at the hands of unstoppable forces is an apt allegory for the state of golf today. The waves, however, have been social and economic, and even courses far from the ocean have been battered. Through a surprising misalignment of supply and demand, the decade of the 2000s was characterized by the frenzied construction of golf course communities coupled with a leveling off of participation. As a result, many golf operations are competing over a limited number of customers, and cities are trying to figure out what to do with courses that no longer turn a profit or even cover costs. San Francisco’s debate over investing $11 million in another seawall for Sharp Park is emblematic: What is the future of golf in crowded, park-hungry cities?

“Urban public golf courses are already parks – in a sense. They’re green and beautiful, and the ecological processes of their trees, shrubs, and lawns help clean the air, slow the raindrops, and shelter wildlife. But for most humans, they have barriers that are as real as a sand trap. Unlike other parks, golf courses require entry fees ($36 is the national median weekend fee at municipal courses), expensive equipment, and a working knowledge of a complicated game. And though they represent large properties — typically between 100 and 150 acres — they are almost invariably off-limits to the public.

“Continuing to invest in golf courses that are not financially self-sustaining at the cost of other urban recreation is completely unjustifiable,” says Meredith Thomas, the director of San Francisco’s Neighborhood Parks Council. In cities with tight budgets and little open space — San Francisco is the second most densely populated big city in the country — parks are expected to serve multiple demands in small spaces. Golf courses, in contrast, says Thomas, are “pretty much the definition of sprawl as far as parkland goes,” especially since “other forms of recreation like field sports and off-leash dog areas are bursting at the seams.” Underutilized and unsustainable golf courses, she concludes, “are counter to San Francisco’s definition of livability.”

“Marcel Wilson, ASLA, who teaches a graduate studio in landscape architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, agrees. He has tasked his students with developing designs for San Francisco’s Lincoln Park Golf Course that allow for full public use and also include a profit-generating feature to replace lost golf revenue. Among the proposals that emerged are urban farms, bamboo forests, green cemeteries, aquifer recharge facilities, abalone farms, and municipal-scale composting facilities.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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