JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A private golf course looking to expand in Liberty State Park is sparking a huge controversy.

Some bird lovers say an expansion could mean forcing out some rare birds, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported Thursday.

Liberty State Park has been protected for decades. The big debate now is should its neighboring private golf course, Liberty National, be allowed to expand onto public land.

Advocates for the park, the group Friends of Liberty State Park, say absolutely not.

“The whole park was bought with state and federal funds to be an open space treasure for the local population, for the state and for our nation,” said Sam Pesin, the group’s president.

The exclusive golf club wants to expand into waterfront land known as Caven Point, a marshy bay-front beach area that has been under special protection from development for more than 40 years, and create three news holes on the banks of New York Harbor. Spokesman Eric Shuffler said doing so will help the club draw more high-profile PGA Tour events that create economic benefits for the state.

“We are at risk of losing the PGA Tour in New Jersey if we are not able to make these changes,” Shuffler said.

Environmentalists told Baker that plan would disrupt a migratory bird habitat. So sensitive is the situation, visitors are only allowed to walk through the area from March to October. The other half of the year the wildlife is too fragile.

“Liberty State Park has close to 300 species of birds have been recorded here. Two years ago the snowy owl sat down on Caven Point. It was a big thrill for all the birders in the area,” said Rick Cordner, Friends of Liberty State Park treasurer.

Added Pesin: “He just wants millionaires to play golf right by the bay, no matter what the consequences are.”

Liberty National was built on top of what was once a landfill. Shuffler said in exchange for part of Caven Point, the golf club said it would make other investments.

“We are talking about improving ball fields, basketball courts,” he said.

The Liberty State Park Protection Act would prevent private developers from disrupting the public land. Assemblyman Raj Mukherji is the lead sponsor of the Act.

“If they could do it to Liberty State Park, no park is safe,” Mukherji said.

The Senate is set to vote on the bill on Monday. It is not yet on the Assembly’s agenda.

A spokesperson for Gov. Phil Murphy said the governor believes that Liberty State Park is a Garden State treasure that belongs to every family, adding that he is a strong supporter of protecting public lands for the benefit of everyone.

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