Golf course tree replanting plan moves forward

The redone fifth hole of the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Course.
(Tom Huesgen)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association board approved the next phase in a plan to replant trees along the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club’s newly renovated course. At the Oct. 7 meeting, the board approved the creation of a Tree Replacement Planning Group to craft a comprehensive plan that promises both Association and golf club oversight and community input.

“The goals are to offer a superior golfing experience and enhance the course, provide additional shade and aesthetics on the surrounding trails, beautify the landscape for neighboring property owners and replace trees as they decline,” said RSF Association Assistant Manager Arnold Keene at the board’s Oct. 7 meeting.

The vote was 5-2 with President Bill Weber and Directors Laurel Lemarie, Lorraine Kent, Bill Strong and Rick Sapp in favor and Directors Greg Gruzdowich and Dan Comstock opposed.

The replanting project was set in motion over the summer when residents raised alarm about the number of trees lost during the course renovation.

The golf club’s master plan called for the removal of six trees (and the replanting of 16) but community members and members of the Forest Health Preservation Committee estimated that as many as 27 had been removed. The golf club has stated that the trees removed were dead or dying and posed a safety risk to both golfers and trail users.

In response to the community concerns, the Association placed a moratorium on any further tree removals for the month of July, unless reviewed by Association staff and an independent arborist. The following month, the board established a protocol for evaluating golf course trees, a collaboration between the club and the Association.

The next phase is the replanting plan. The Tree Replacement Planning Group would include representatives from the RSF Association and golf club as well as landscape and golf course design professionals. The group will recommend tree types and locations and prepare a plan for replanting that includes potential costs and timeline. Community workshops will be held to gather input on the landscape plan.

Once the plan is developed it would undergo Art Jury review, cost analysis and further public workshops.

The cost of this phase has not yet been determined, Keene said, but will be shared between the RSF Association and golf club.

While not opposed to the plan, Interim RSF Golf Club Manager Shanon McCarthy requested more time for golf club board and staff to review and provide input on the document the board was approving.

Director Gruzdowich made a motion to delay the approval until after the golf course renovation has been completed and play is resumed, when they have a better assessment of the finished course: “It’s a good idea but I think it’s too early,” he said.

Director Sapp noted that what the board approved is just the framework for the replanting plan to move ahead. He said he would like to see momentum on the project rather than it being tabled until construction is completed.

The motion to delay failed 4-3 with Gruzdowich, Comstock and Strong in favor.

According to McCarthy, the golf club’s goal is to open the refreshed front nine on Oct. 19 with all 18 holes open by December, pending any delays due to weather or grass growth.