Drains rain on parade at S.F.'s Harding Park
New pipes 'backed up' during recent storm
Sunday, December 8, 2002
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Harding Park's smooth ride finally hit a bump.
Last month's storm, it turns out, revealed a drainage system that did not work as anticipated, and requires some new work -- currently under way -- to beef up and improve drainage.
What, you thought this would be easy? You thought the city of San Francisco could pour $16 million into raggedy but dear old Harding Park and get a problem-free face-lift?
Get a hold of yourself.
This is city golf, after all.
All parties involved in the construction tried to downplay the severity of the drainage problem, saying it can and will be fixed. Project superintendent Les Claytor said on Friday "the site drained to the appropriate points, but the infiltration rates weren't as fast, so we're retrofitting some overflow pipes."
For those of us who don't speak landscape architecture, Claytor was asked, can we say the pipes backed up?
Claytor hemmed and hawed.
" 'Backed up' is not a good term, that makes it sound worse than it is," Claytor said. Finally, pressed, he gave in: "I guess you could say 'backed up.' "
Dan McKenna, Southern Superintendent for San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, admitted as much when he said there is some digging going on right now at Harding to move the water flow, but said "in a project this size, it's a glitch . . . it's part of the mix. A little glitch. It didn't set the project back."
Still, improved drainage is one of the most important aspects of the redesign, so concern is natural. The issue is complicated because environmental reasons dictate the runoff cannot spill directly into Lake Merced, which would be the normal course of action at any golf course. This creates problems at Harding, but Claytor, the on-site point man for the PGA Tour's course design department, tried to put the issue in perspective.
He pointed to all that is going right at Harding right now: The greens, as supervised by the USGA's Pat Gross, drained beautifully. The course is 100 percent germinated, and mowing is already taking place on 90 percent of the holes. Construction is completed -- excepting the drainage work being fixed -- and mild weather has been very beneficial to the germination process.
What to make of the drainage problems, then?
"These guys are professional golf course builders," Claytor said. "It's kind of like a surgeon going back in. It's almost like plastic surgery. You go in, make a little incision, and get it back together."
And Harding got a thumbs-up from the big guy himself, when PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem visited last month and came away "exceptionally impressed," according to Claytor.
MORE CITY BUZZ: McKenna said San Francisco's new Director of Golf is Sean Sweeney, who was acting Director of Golf for the past year and a half. Sweeney has a big task -- overseeing the redesign at Harding and making sure its condition stays sparkling long after the grand reopening next summer.
"It all comes down to money," said Sweeney, showing he's already in tune with the vagaries of the job.
Actually, Sweeney, 54, does know his way around the city's munis. Though born and raised in Hawaii, he is a 1970 USF graduate and was superintendent at Sharp Park from 1985-94. To keep Harding up to snuff, he anticipates asking for five additional greens-keepers, in addition to more and newer equipment.
Like he said, it all comes down to money.
E-mail Brian Murphy at [email protected].