In an effort to secure a compromise deal that will preserve funding for a new school, conservation groups late Monday proposed that all sides ask the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to modify a May 13, 2004, prohibition against construction of the Blue Rock Country Club on Walpert Ridge in Hayward.
The compromise, if agreed to by the developers Hayward 1900, Inc., and submitted jointly to the court, would allow for the start of grading and construction activities on the housing and school portion of the Blue Rock project. The injunction against the proposed golf course would remain in place pending a court argument scheduled for later this summer.
“HAPA has supported the housing and the school from the time the project was approved,” said Sherman Lewis of the Hayward Area Planning Association. “The problem all along has been an elite golf course in habitat essential for the Alameda whipshake and California red-legged frog. If the developer is willing, the school and the housing construction can proceed while the court decides the habitat issue.”
Conservation groups and biologists are concerned that a golf course extending south along the ridge crest would threaten the survival of the Alameda whipsnake and California red-legged frog.
“The golf facility, as proposed, would decimate one of only five remaining populations of the whipsnake and would block an essential wildlife migration route,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are fine with any school construction that does not destroy endangered species habitat on Walpert Ridge — the children who will attend the new school should have the opportunity to experience the region’s natural heritage and wildlife up close.”
The housing aspect of the project includes 614 luxury homes to be constructed over a 356-acre area. Conservation groups oppose a golf course sprawling nearly three quarters of a mile along Walpert Ridge and impacting 1,600 acres of prime open space and habitat for the two species. On November 14, 2000, Earthjustice filed suit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to provide legally mandated protections for the Alameda whipsnake and the California red-legged frog in its original assessment of the Blue Rock project. Both species are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
“We owe it to our grandchildren to be good stewards of the environment by protecting endangered species and the special places they call home. Once they are gone, we cannot bring them back,” said Greg Loarie an attorney for Earthjustice representing the conservation groups. “We hope the developers will find this compromise an agreeable solution that will allow school and housing construction to begin as soon as possible.”