Before & After @ Sharp Park: Artichokes to Golf
Unusual Uses for Cooking Spray

Laguna Salada: The Not-So-Great Salt Lake


Re the Sharp Park post below: What came before the "before"? Golf course advocates have been relying on the name “Laguna Salada” to make the argument that the area was always a salt marsh environment, and thus in a biological sleight of hand the golf course and the berm are what brought frogs and snakes to the site. It is this fundamental error, using the start of the golf course as the baseline for the biological morphology of Laguna Salada that undermines their argument.

It is easy to dispel the golf facilitation mythology by looking at the available historical, ecological information. Laguna Salada in its natural state is very similar to Lake Merced, Rodeo Lagoon, Abbot’s Lagoon, and Pescadero Marsh, which are all coastal lagoon systems that experience limited saltwater influx as a result of winter storms, but which are primarily influenced by the freshwater streams that feed them. We know this to be true from the earliest 1869 U.S. Coastal Survey maps of Laguna Salada that show the “tule” symbol and not the salt marsh symbol. Since tules (cattails) can exist only in freshwater, we can readily understand that the historical environment needed to support the snakes and frogs existed long before the golf course, so it is a reach to believe that the snakes must have migrated over because of the golf course. But why believe an old map when you can believe your own eyes. Above is a picture of the pre-golf course days, and lo and behold, in the foreground  are tules indicative of freshwater.



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Linty, are you there?

@ Ian Butler | February 19, 2011 at 08:50 AM "I suspect Brent was aiming his comments at San Franciscans." Maybe Brent considers them "no one," but if so, then Brent has no clue! I've hung out at the golf course collecting testimonial letters from nothing but San Franciscans of every age, ethnicity, and income level who had no problem letting the SF Supervisors know exactly how much they would miss Sharp Park, if it were destroyed.

Linty, may we please have the name of the botanist who identified the plants in your photograph so we keep this conversation moving.

Ms. Jana, why do you limit Laguna Salada to prior to the construction of Sharp Park Golf Course? Surely there is history prior to that.

And my head is beginning to hurt from the salinity issue. First Linty says that the cattails can exist only in freshwater, then he says I don't understand brackish, now you say they grew in high salinity. Would you folks settle on one description?

Personally, I believe that Ms. Jana's and Linty's homes should be returned to their antediluvian state.

Sharon cites an excellent example of why many Pacificans are wary of the "Restore Sharp Park" arguments. The statement "They could close Sharp Park tomorrow and no one would miss it" is easily disproved by anyone who would miss it (including me!) without having to do anything. I suspect Brent was aiming his comments at San Franciscans, but in doing so alienated most Pacificans.

Although the new report was commissioned by Wild Equity, Brent's partisan organization, it was done by ESA & PWA, one of the most respected coastal engineering firms in the country, with a proven track record of hundreds of successful projects (including the Pacifica State Beach flood control project).

We now have two plans to compare, the Swaim report commissioned by SF Park and Recreation, and the ESA & PWA report commissioned by Wild Equity. Both were put together by respected firms, but commissioned by a biased entity. (SF Park and Rec. obviously doesn't want to hand Sharp Park over to GGNRA.)

I suggest that people actually read the new report and judge it on its merits. It does clear up many misconceptions about restoring Sharp Park. If after reading it you still have criticisms, they will be better informed criticisms.

Personally, I hope that this report can lead to a compromise plan, which moves most of the golf course to the east of the highway, but saves some of Mackenzie's original design, while phasing out the seawall and restoring the Sanchez Creek area to endangered species habitat. Unfortunately, this may be impossible, and I don't have the funds to commission a report of my own!

When you cite Wild Equity sources, Kathy, you defeat your purpose since Wild Equity is a known source of "wild statements," e.g., "They could close Sharp Park tomorrow and no one would miss it."

The historical Laguna Salada, prior to Sharp Park Golf Course construction, supported fringing marshes with cattails and bulrushes that were intolerant of high salinity.

Just one of the references to the plants around Laguna Salada in the first peer-reviewed scientific study of Sharp Park released last week sometime.

The report can be downloaded here:

Mr. Marr (whoever you may be), you are the one who said cattails do not grow in brackish water. I simply Googled them and found they do. What is complex about that? You must be a lawyer to hang your hat on the meaning of "brackish" or "salinity." The fact is that cattails can and do grow in brackish, or salty, water. It's been a long, long time since anyone has called me naive.

Dear Linty Marr:

I’ve shown the photograph from your January 19, 2011 posting to a number of local botanists, both “academic” and “working” scientists at various agencies. None could, with any certainty, identify the plants in the foreground. But they did say that all the local varieties of cattails could grow in brackish water. Would you kindly reveal the source for your contention that the photo proves the lagoon to be freshwater? Thanks.

Tonight in his State of the Union address, President Obama will announce a five-year freeze in non-security, discretionary spending, pretty much killing off federal money to be spent on the berm.

In response to Mr. Hotchkiss -- You need to perhaps learn what "brackish water" is and understand the complex nature of salinity levels that rise and fall in a feature like Laguna Salada before you make such blanket comments. As for your assumption that my comment on a photograph somehow carried over to the natural history of the lagoon is rather naive.

The anecdotal evidence I liked best is the one where a frog and a snake walked into a bar and...

Jeez, everything I see online sez tules, or bulrushes, survive well in brackish water. Linty Marr's assertion that freshwater flows to the ocean and saltwater does not infiltrate inland is inane. Anyone who lives on the coast knows that ocean water is pushed inland during high tides and storms.

Does Linty Marr, or the extreme, marginalized environmental element he represents, have anything to say about the Dept. of Agriculture’s assertion that tules grow in brackish salt marshes?

I won't go as far as to agree with Mr. Miller's characterization of Mr. Slavin, but every point made by him is wrong.

I have to assume that the link he provided (which doesn't work) points to Typha latifolia L. (symbol TYLA), which is NOT the plant in question. Did he just pick something that "looks" like tules? I won't bother doing his research for him, but I'll give him a hint: Start with the name Schoenoplectus and go from there.

As to the other points: The "channel" that he sees in that photo may be the entrance channel from the lagoon that occurs during the long period of freshwater flushing -- freshwater flowing to the ocean, not the other way around (how did all those artichokes tolerate all that saltwater)?

Karen Swaim never testified that the frog CAME to Sharp Park in 1946 -- she testified that the frog and snake were first scientifically surveyed in 1946. There is anecdotal evidence that the snake was abundant prior to the golf course, and subsequent surveys show that snake counts continued to dramatically decrease after the course went in -- yet she can't seem to make the connection.

"The 'pouting' and 'sulking,' as you call it, is better called participatory democracy."

No, participatory democracy is arguing your points, then accepting defeat graciously when said points fail to result in your wishes or vision. What you're doing is pissing and moaning because you brought your pseudoscience and faulty logic to the table, and it's crumbled before you, and you can't or won't accept it.

"I suggest you direct your 'vitriol' somewhere else."

Are you kidding me? Pot, meet kettle.

Some good laughs here today (el-lake-o?!), but let me get serious for a moment. One of the biggest problems I’ve always had with the people that Linty Marr represents is the way they present dubious, unproven ideas as gospel truth. They have claimed the scientific, intellectual high ground in the Sharp Park debate, but on close inspection, a lot of their science doesn’t hold up. For instance, in today’s episode, Linty Marr sets out to prove that frogs and snakes predated golf at Sharp Park (and thus the golfers must go) by contending that Laguna Salada was merely a misnamed freshwater lake. Why it was called “salty lagoon” when it was actually a freshwater lake is unclear, or maybe I’m just too stupid to understand. (Jeff Miller has labeled me an “environmental illiterate.”) Anyway, Linty can prove it’s freshwater because he has seen the “tule” symbol on old maps of the area, and “since tules (cattails) can exist only in freshwater, we can readily understand that the historical environment needed to support the snakes and frogs existed long before the golf course…” Better yet, we don’t have to believe an old map, because Linty produces, in a thundering summation, “…a picture of the pre-golf course days, and lo and behold, in the foreground are tules indicative of freshwater.”

Sounds pretty conclusive, doesn’t it? But wait a minute, who says cattails can exist only in freshwater? Linty Marr? Jeff Miller? They never credit or footnote any of their “facts.” Well, I checked the U.S Dept. of Agriculture Plant Guide ( guide/PDF/cs tyla.PDF) and found, lo and behold: “With influxes of nutrient or freshwater, cattails are aggressive invaders in both brackish salt marshes and freshwater wetlands.” I imagine that Kathy Jana will soon inform us that the Dept. of Agriculture is “deeply flawed.”

There’s quite a bit of evidence that documents the salinity of Laguna Salada, including the 1926 aerial photograph that shows an open channel between the lake and the ocean. Karen Swaim has testified that the first scientific documentation of the red-legged frog at Sharp Park came in 1946 -- 14 years after the golf course was built. If Linty’s boys wish to dispute that, they better come up with more plausible evidence than they’ve found so far.

I think it was Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but everyone is not entitled to their own facts.”

And Linty, in your photo above, that dark patch of vegetation to the left of the pole (some distance beyond the saltwater lagoon) looks suspiciously like marijuana, which would indicate the presence of hippies. Were there any peace signs stamped on those original maps?

Despite all the overreaching semantics, the origin of "Laguna Salada" was actually the ancient Native American custom of dropping by the area to enjoy a salad of marsh grass, anchovies, and a primitive form of artichoke.

Linty Marr, et al., if you wish to return the golf course to its original makeup (of course, it seems you are deciding what is "original"; perhaps it should go back to primordial ooze), then what are your plans for Linda Mar? It too used to be underwater. Lake Mathilda, I believe. I would imagine far more snakes and frogs lived around that lake than around Laguna Salada.

The San Francisco Rec & Park plan for Sharp Park is fundamentally flawed -- not even the endangered wildlife is protected with this unsustainably expensive plan.

That's a seawall built on shifting sand, which -- in 10 years or less -- would erode the beach so it looks like Nick's at Rockaway: no beach at all, just a seawall.

Why would the public want to get into the business of paying for seawalls against an ever-rising sea?

Mr. Collins, I suggest you direct your vitriol somewhere else. The "pouting" and "sulking," as you call it, is better called participatory democracy. That the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance and other golf advocates are getting nowhere in their efforts to get $32 million in taxpayer money to save a dilapidated golf course is proof enough that the issue is far from resolved.

Might Laguna Salada have been named that because it was actually salty?

And Spanish for "lake" is "el-lake-o".

"So why was it named Salty Lagoon?" Oh, time to play the name game! It MUST be salty because they named it "salada" and it must be a lagoon because they named it "Laguna" -- no?

Well, no -- "laguna" was used in early California Spanish for lake, not lagoon -- as in Lagunitas for "little lakes." So if we were going strictly by translation, we should be calling it the "salty lake." Perhaps someone riding along a ridgetop saw it in the distance and thought what appeared as a lake was so close to the ocean that it must be salty. Regardless, many places are misnamed (Pacific Ocean, Yellow River, etc.). We just don't base public policy on folklore.

For f*#k sake. don't these people ever go away? Look, Lint--can I call you that? It's over. SF decided to keep the course and protect the snakes and frogs at the same time. Sorry, no dog park for you. No historic nature park with visitor center for Ms. Jana. It's going to remain a golf course and no amount of pouting or sulking or stomping your feet can change the fact that SF made the right call. You and the rest of the enviros are like small children who threaten to hold their breath till you get your way. Is your sense of self-worth really that strongly tied to your ego? Are you truly incapable of accepting defeat after a valiant effort?

So why was it named Salty Lagoon?

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