I have friends who live on Mount Davidson who love their eucalyptus trees. One of them sent out this missive to all their friends:
I’m not political and I’ve never before gotten involved in anything remotely “activist,” or even signed a petition as far as I can remember. I’m certainly not a “tree-hugger.” But when I heard about a little-known program of the Rec & Park Dept I got so angry that I had to do something. This is what I’m emailing you about.
The “Natural Areas Program” (NAP), also called the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan (SNRAMP) of the San Francisco Rec & Park Dept claims that it seeks to preserve, restore, and enhance the City’s natural areas. That sounds good, and they got tons of money in a bond measure a few years ago to do just that, and will be asking in November for more bond money. However, in their zeal to be “natural” they have gone too far and adopted an approach to our parks that is not appropriate for urban forest areas.
In Mt. Davidson, McLaren, Glen Canyon and other parks, they have a plan to remove more than 18,000 healthy trees (1,600 on Mt. Davidson alone.) Any tree under 15 feet doesn’t count so the actual number will be much higher. In place of beautiful, majestic trees they will plant native scrub and seasonal grasses, like at Twin Peaks and San Bruno Mountain.
They will also restrict public use (closing some trails and prohibiting dogs in certain areas) and apply herbicides to maintain the native plant gardens.
The trees are being cut down not because they are dangerous or unhealthy (although that is one of the reasons given by NAP representatives.) They are being cut down because they will block the sunlight for the new native plant gardens, and because the NAP staff has a philosophical dislike for non-native species. They are already starting to do this even though the EIR is only in the draft stage. They have already removed trees and visitor benches on Mt. Davidson and routinely spray herbicides on Twin Peaks and other areas.
The NAP mentions innocuous-sounding things like trail restoration, natural habitat preservation, etc. but in fact they have great leeway to remove trees and use herbicides under this plan.
The Draft EIR dismisses public concerns as insignificant (e.g., soil erosion and increased wind), or they do not address them (reduced air quality). Lance thinks that the weather in our neighborhood may change.
Trees insulate the parks and our neighborhoods from wind, sound, and sights and are home to thriving wildlife. They create a beautiful forest oasis that is truly unique in an urban area. These parks and forests are one of the reasons that Lance and I chose to live here. They are among the treasures of our City.
The NAP approach is one you would take with a marine sanctuary or pristine garden—less people, less recreation, introduce native species at all costs—which is inappropriate in an urban setting. I believe the parks should be for the use and enjoyment of the public. Where there are already native plants and trees, fine, preserve them. But to remove healthy trees because they are not native and plant native gardens is outrageous, and a terrible misuse of City money.
An organization called the San Francisco Forest Alliance was formed to fight this approach to our parks. They have lots of info here:
If you agree that removing healthy trees, using toxins to maintain a nativist “natural” environment, and restricting public access in our parks is crazy, and a better use of the Rec & Park budget is maintaining what forest we have and fixing the infrastructure in the parks (restrooms, playgrounds, pools, etc.), then I encourage you to sign the online petition on the Forest Alliance website http://sfforest.net/ and forward this to others and encourage them to sign the petition and make their views known.
Regardless of how you may feel about eucalyptus and other non-native species, please educate yourself about this issue before making up your mind. (See links above.)
If you sign the petition, please do so as soon as possible, as the Forest Alliance wants to present it on Arbor Day, April 27.
Thank you for reading this. Hope all is well with you.
Meanwhile, Chuck Nevius seems to be taking a rather feckless tone on the issue, while disguising it in cynicism:
I'm rather divided on this. I understand the eucalyptus trees are basically a pest, but I don't see the utility of removing so many trees when they're already rooted in the rocks. I also don't really understand why a municipal parks department would want to take on what appears to be more of a restorative/archaeological function, as opposed to the National Park Service. It seems to me that while there is a preservation interest within the national parks such as the Presidio, Municipal park areas are more for use. It sounds to me like the local iteration of this program is starting to lose its proper scale.
At issue is a 20-year plan to remove as many as 1,600 trees from the area and replace them with native plants. Neighborhood groups are so upset that Supervisor Sean Elsbernd wrote an editorial in the West Portal Monthly urging them to calm things down.
"I tried," Elsbernd sighed. "If you listen to some of the rhetoric, you'd think it was going to be clear-cut in the next six months."
But residents, like Jacquie Proctor, who has written books on the neighborhood, wonder why any trees have to go.
"I live in the densest city in the United States," she said. "The 40 acres of open space is wonderful buffer from urban life."
There is more to this than 40 acres. In all, the Recreation and Park Department plans to remove 3,424 trees in locations like Mount Davidson, Mount Sutro and Sharp Park. The department's Lisa Wayne said the goal is "to sustain and restore natural environment and biodiversity."