The “Natural” Areas Program

Spectacular forests with towering trees.  Thickets that serve as critical habitat for wildlife in pockets of San Francisco. That’s what SF’s “Natural Areas” should be. But while city plans call for safeguards to preserve and protect these wild areas, there is a destructive element in motion.

The Natural Areas Program (NAP), a group within Rec & Park, proposes misguided, expensive objectives that will restrict access to popular walking trails and indiscriminately cut down healthy and beautiful trees and plants.

[CLICK HERE to go to the NAP’s Draft Environmental Impact Report as a PDF file. It’s 562 pages long, but the early chapters summarize their plans. There’s a table with details. Scroll down to see our table based on that information.]

It’s a plan that supplants existing habitat with native grasses absent for centuries that would serve no real purpose and cannot be sustained naturally. Trying to maintain these unnatural “Natural Areas” require continual use of toxic pesticides and 1000s of volunteers hours — and they still fail.

Here’s what the NAP [i.e the Significant Natural Resource Area Management Plan, or SNRAMP] plans:

  • Chop down almost 18,500 healthy eucalyptus trees: (Sharp Park 15,000; Mt. Davidson 1,600; McLaren Park 809; Glen Canyon Park 120; Golden Gate Park Oak Woodland 84; Interior Greenbelt 140; Lake Merced 134)
  • Remove an unlimited number of willows, cypress, and other trees. They need not document removal of any tree under 15 feet.
  • Close off or relocate over 10 miles of popular trails for walking, hiking and running, and adds only 1 mile (approx 48,514 feet net).
  • Render some other park features “inaccessible to the public
  • Regularly apply dangerous and toxic pesticides
  • Destroy crucial habitat for birds, coyotes,  raccoons, and other wildlife.
  • Could potentially close 80% of dog play areas — and 86% of San Francisco’s dog play areas are within the parks controlled by the “Natural Areas Program.” (Closes 20% of the dog play areas,  puts another 60% at risk of closure.)

The plan will adversely affect neighbors and visitors alike. It will irreparably harm wildlife and plants that thrive and depend on wilderness diversity. And even though an environmental impact review is under way, right now there are healthy trees being cut down and dangerous pesticides being applied in these very areas – actions that subvert the legal process and the best interests of the environment and the community.

In a time when city services and funding have been dramatically reduced, it’s troubling to see such skewed priorities. Massive spending for so-called wholesale “restoration ecology” has not been successful in previous efforts at Pine Lake and other places that now host barren patches.

Meanwhile, directors of recreation centers have been laid off, and programs curtailed; bathrooms have been locked up and the few that are open are badly maintained; trash and graffiti are not dealt with; the city has washed its hands of 23,000 street trees.


(Clicking on the table above will make it larger.)

Note: “Dog play areas Maybe’d” means the areas will be monitored and may be closed. (This table has been corrected for a typo and color added for easy reading.)

ETA: Here is a map indicating some of the major parks and planned changes. The areas with the big green trees indicate where trees are to be cut, trails removed or relocated, and/ or dog-play areas removed. Use your cursor to move the map up and down to see all the areas; and clicking on the tree-shapes will give information about the plan for each park.

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1 Response to The “Natural” Areas Program

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