For some years I have been a member of City Councilman Hal Bernson's citizens' advisory council, and for the most part I admire his work.
On one issue, however, I am not in agreement: Councilman Bernson's crusade, backed by various environmental groups, to "protect" the abandoned Chatsworth Reservoir in the northwest San Fernando Valley from various so-called encroachments. One recent article on the subject specifically attacked the idea of putting a golf course on the reservoir property, as if it were the worst possible use for the land.
On the contrary, Chatsworth Reservoir would be an excellent location for a new city golf course. It would give us a much-needed public recreational facility, make money for the city treasury and still protect the wildlife on the property.
The land consists of a heavily wooded area and a large treeless area of more than 1,300 acres, which was once a beautiful lake but is now a wasteland. Residents along the southern rim now face a dust bowl.
The area formerly underwater would easily accommodate an 18-hole golf course with plenty of room to spare. That would leave many acres of surrounding land for wild animals and birds.
The city desperately needs added recreation areas and the annual income of more than $2 million that a golf course would probably provide. A course would require only 150 acres and would not usurp wildlife refuges. In fact, it would enhance breeding grounds, as the Woodley Lakes golf course has done in Van Nuys, where egrets, herons, ducks, cormorants, raptors and fish abound. This occurs because of the ponds, trees, grass and serene ambience.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power owns Chatsworth Reservoir and pays $200,000 a year in upkeep. Meanwhile, the Recreation and Parks Department has overused golf courses suffering from excessive wear and tear.
As the U.S. Golf Assn. says, "in addition to the recreation that golf provides, golf courses themselves serve as a wildlife habitat and green space, while turfgrass and trees filter pollutants from air and water and can have significant cooling effects on hot days."
The practices of the city Parks Department reflect this attitude. The department is conservative with pesticides and fertilizers, using them only on plants that need them and under strict controls.
The game of golf is great mental and physical exercise for all ages. A day on the course entails as much as seven miles of healthful walking in the open air, amid beautiful surroundings, while enjoying friendly competition. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to get a reservation to play, especially for those who are free only on weekends, when playing time is at a premium. Consequently, the city requires a $25 fee to call in a reservation a week in advance. If the caller is unable to appear at the designated time, the reservation is forfeited and a penalty of $8 must be paid before the golfer can get another time.
All of this points up the need for more facilities to abate the stringent regulation. Soccer players and tennis buffs can enjoy their sport at no cost, while the golfer pays more than $20 per round.
Which are more important, birds or people? The answer: neither. Neither should be excluded for the benefit of the other, but both can be included and live together.
Councilman Bernson is a reasonable and able public official. He should reconsider his stand and be open to a small compromise, in view of the considerable benefits that would accrue to all the citizens of his district.