If there was ever an outdoor activity engineered to garner side-eye from environmentalists and underscore the optics of class warfare, it’s golf.
Sure, it has its defenders—the former president is the perfect poster boy—but I submit that this is, in part, why Marin County voters opposed a ballot measure this time last year that would have prevented the former San Geronimo Golf Course from becoming a public park. And, of course, there were the fish.
As a sort of belated victory lap, last week saw the opening to the public of a new 100-foot pedestrian bridge installed by Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN). The bridge connects the community with trails on the former golf course and also sits directly over San Geronimo Creek, one of the most important remaining watersheds for endangered coho salmon.
Literally “a bridge over troubled salmon,” the walkway replaces a 100 year-old dam so that the endangered coho and similarly threatened steelhead trout can freely migrate.
Moreover, the bridge allows visitors to enjoy vista views and walk a giant loop around the 157-acre property, without the threat of sustaining a golf-related injury. Assessing data from a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, GolfSupport.com found “the risk of injury among amateur golfers has an incidence between 15.8% to 40.9% on an annual basis.”
Why intrude a “sports” injury statistic into a feel-good story about restoring a fish habitat? To make nakedly apparent the dangers of mistreating our local watersheds—by building golf courses on them!—and to spotlight the efforts of organizations like Olema-based Turtle Island Restoration Network (progenitors of SPAWN), that stepped up to reverse the tide.
Any freshman communications major can tell you that data has more relevance when personalized. There are probably some readers for whom endangered salmon are a non-starter, but I think most would prefer not getting a golf ball upside the head. A specious argument but a species saved.
The nearly $2 million dollar project was funded by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and SPAWN members.
“The area around the bridge remains an active irrigated restoration and revegetation site, so we ask visitors to remain behind the orange fencing and keep their dogs on leash so our native plants can flourish and the riparian habitat can develop,” reminds Preston Brown, SPAWN’s director of watershed conservation and project manager.
Audrey Fusco, SPAWN’s restoration ecologist and nursery manager added, “More than 65 native species are being planted, ranging from beautiful small sedges like roundfruit sedge to large redwood trees.”
All of the incoming flora was propagated from seeds and cuttings collected by staff and SPAWN volunteers in the Lagunitas Creek Watershed and nurtured at SPAWN’s native plant nursery.
“This is an exciting day for the thousands of community members already enjoying this public space, thanks to the efforts of The Trust for Public Land,” said Todd Steiner, project supervisor and executive director of SPAWN. “We look forward to continuing to make this land a model of shared flourishing where humans and endangered species can coexist in harmony.”For more information, visit www.seaturtles.org/salmon.