Gun club balks at Lake Merced cleanup bill

Years have passed, fingers have been pointed, and now it seems like The City is finally making some headway in cleaning up Lake Merced.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has been trying to clean up and makeover Lake Merced and its boathouse for years. This week, the PUC finally approved an estimated $10.7 million cleanup of land occupied by the Pacific Rod and Gun Club.

The cleanup efforts follow an investigation of soil contamination on the southern shore. The testing found elevated levels of lead, arsenic and other contaminants resulting from years of lead bullet use by the gun club. The club now uses steel bullets.

The $10.7 million cleanup bill will be footed by The City, at least until they get the Pacific Rod and Gun Club to chip in. The gun club contends the cleanup costs tally just $5 million. SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue told the Ex:

“We’ll be negotiating with the gun club to have them pay for any associated lead cleanup activities. You don’t have to be a marksman to clearly see how the site contamination is a result of their decades long use of lead shot.”

For now, the focus is put on completing long-stalled plans for beautifying the boathouse and setting up various waterfront activities like kayaking, stand-up paddling and day camps. Since 2003, the Lake Merced Boathouse has been closed and in disrepair.

There have been numerous attempts at revamping the boathouse, but none have actually come to fruition. Last year, SF Rec and Park put out a call for a qualified outfit to operate the boathouse, but received no applications.

But public utilities commissioners expressed frustration about the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s delay in upgrading the area. Instead of approving a new agreement, they requested more specific program details and funding.

In 1950, the PUC handed over the rights of Lake Merced to SF Rec and Park. But for 77 years Rec and Park has failed to amend the month-to-month lease arrangement with the gun club. Had they done so, they could have required the club to have special environmental liability insurance, thus covering the cost of lead clean up.

Now the PUC is threatening to take back control of the property if Rec and Park don’t get their act together. Commission President Anson Moran said:

“If our land is lying fallow and is a community nuisance and is not being managed properly then we have no choice but to step in and do something. My message is: Use it or lose it, and show us quickly what you can do.”