West of Twin Peaks Central Council opposes Natural Areas Program, Part 3: Park Access, Habitat & Wildlife
July 31, 2012 4 Comments
This article is Part 3 of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council (WTPCC) letter opposing the Natural Areas Program (NAP). Emphasis has been added.
Read on for Part 3.
WTPCC opposes NAP plans to restrict access to parks. NAP plans to close 9.2 miles of trails that thread through its natural areas. At our May meeting, Dennis Kern noted that a citywide survey of what San Franciscans want in their parks identified trails and hiking as the number one need. Yet NAP plans to close nearly a quarter of the total length of trails in natural areas (about 40 miles). This would seem to fly directly in the face of what the public said they want in their parks.
In most natural areas, the only thing you can do is walk on a trail. You cannot leave the trail to explore the area, or follow a butterfly, or try to see the bird you hear tweeting. To control access, NAP builds fences. Indeed, in parks where trails in natural areas have been restored recently, fences have been built on either side of the trail to ensure people cannot leave the trail. Natural areas become places where you can “look but not touch.” How can children explore the wonders of nature if they are told repeatedly they must “Stay on the Trail”? This is not what we want for our parks.
When people are restricted to walking only on trails, they lose access to the entire non-trail part of the park. In over half of the parks with a natural area (17 of 31), NAP controls the entire park. That means people have lost access to all but the trails in those parks. In an additional 10 parks, NAP controls over 50% of the land. Put another way, only four of the 31 parks with natural areas have less than 50% of their land controlled by NAP. Access restrictions planned by NAP (“stay on the trail”, fences, and closure of trails) mean that entire neighborhoods will lose access to the vast majority of the parkland in their neighborhood parks. The Draft DEIR does not consider the impacts on neighbors and park users of this level of access restriction in the 27 parks where NAP controls more than half the land.
HABITAT AND WILDLIFE
WTPCC opposes the destruction of existing habitat needed by the wildlife and birds currently living in the parks. For example, NAP has removed underbrush in Glen Canyon that is used by coyotes to hide from people and dogs, and replaced it with grasslands. Unlike the underbrush, the grasslands provide little “cover” for the coyotes or other wildlife living in the natural area.
We are also concerned that some habitat conversion is being done during breeding and nesting season. For example, NAP applied for a “streambed alteration” permit from the California Fish and Game Dept for habitat conversion work to be done near Islais Creek in Glen Canyon. In the application, NAP clearly stated: “It is the policy of RPD’s Natural Areas Program that no new projects will begin during the breeding season (December to May).” Similar commitments were made in the SNRAMP.
However, NAP contractors used chainsaws and herbicides to destroy underbrush habitat in Glen Canyon in March and April, continuing work done sporadically since November 2011. This work took place throughout the breeding/nesting season, despite NAP’s legal commitment to CA Fish and Game and in the SNRAMP to not do habitat work during breeding season. When people informed RPD management about this, during a meeting at McLaren Lodge, Lisa Wayne, the head of NAP, said the work was being done during the breeding/nesting season because the grant for the project was set to expire. In other words, NAP’s decision on habitat conversion in Glen Canyon appeared to be motivated by financial considerations, not by any concerns about the wildlife and birds living there.
To be continued.