The San Francisco Forest Alliance (SFForest) is very concerned about the hundreds of trees slated for destruction in Glen Canyon, starting as early as this month. The appeal period for the first phase of tree removal ends October 14th. (We have the details on the dedicated Glen Canyon site at SFGlenCanyon.net) So SFForest called a neighborhood meeting at Glen Canyon Recreation Center on October 6th, and our volunteers distributed leaflets all through the area. We’d been concerned that many people who told us they wanted to come had prior plans owing to Fleet Week, Games, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, and other activities.
We need not have worried. All the seats were taken by the time the meeting started. By the end, a crowd of people stood at the back and sides of the room. We estimate that some 80-100 people attended. Six people spoke. The Question time, after the presentations, was vigorous; people clearly are interested in saving as many trees as possible, and they had questions not just for SFForest but also for Michael Rice (President of Glen Park Neighborhood Association) who was present.
1) Eric Miller, President of SFForest started by introducing SFForest as a grass-roots all-volunteer organization with no fiscal ties to the city government. He described our mission in trying to preserve public parks for the public, and encourage SFRPD to align their expenditures with the actual needs of park users. He emphasized that we support the removal of hazardous trees – but very few of the trees slated for removal are hazardous. He also emphasized that our presentation was based on documents we had obtained from the City.
2) Dave Emanuel presented the details of the plan for Glen Canyon, and the Rec Center Project in particular. He emphasized that we do not oppose the renovation of the Recreation Center. When the community process ended in December 2011, those who participated understood that 10-11 trees would be felled. Now, the number is between 58 and 70. Hundreds more are to be felled for various reasons, including trail-building and the Natural Areas Program. (Go to our dedicated website, Save the Trees of Glen Canyon for details.) What we want is transparency and accountability. SFForest should not have to use the Sunshine Act to get the arborist’s report or the bid documents. People are passionate about trees, and this information has to be made public.
Arnita Bowman, who is one of SFForest’s researchers, also pointed out that US Fish & Wildlife is proposing to designate the grassland side of Glen Canyon Park as an endangered Franciscan Manzanita critical habitat, which would further restrict usage and could lead to more tree-felling. The public comment period for the proposal closes on November 5th and information on how to comment is HERE.
3) Alma Hecht, a certified arborist, spoke to the importance of tall trees as a windbreak, for its acoustic values, for wildlife including the large birds like owls and hawks. She pointed out that senescence is not a reason to remove trees, unless they are hazardous. The charm of Glen Canyon is its forests, in the sense of natural beauty from the tall trees. The 160 replacement trees are relatively small species, and anyway it would be a lifetime before they would reach the maturity and beauty of the ones that exist now.
4) Jacquie Proctor spoke about the problems of Mount Davidson, where 1600 trees are to be felled, and the neighbors are fighting to prevent it. (More details about this plan HERE.)
5) Guest Speaker Paul Rotter spoke about Tank Hill, where neighbors successfully fought to block the felling of most of the trees on Tank Hill, and where a replanting program failed miserably. About ten years ago, SF RPD cut down 26 trees to grow native plants, and planned to clear all the eucalyptus trees. The infuriated neighbors fought back, arriving at a settlement that no more trees would be cut until planted native oaks were large enough to take over the habitat. Neighbors were given 36 oaks to plant under the supervision of SFRPD. Four survive, the largest being 30 inches high ten years later. (More details on the SaveSutro website, HERE.)
6) Rupa Bose spoke about the increasing use of pesticides in Natural Areas, including Glen Canyon Park. In addition to the regular legal spraying of toxins, “volunteers” spray unknown amounts of unapproved chemicals in unacceptable locations, without notices or records. (More of that HERE and HERE.)
A number of people had questions and comments. Some themes that emerged:
1) Several people wanted hazardous trees to be tackled and others left alone.
2) People felt the community process had been top-down, and their inputs – particularly about saving the line of majestic trees at the current entrance from Elk St – had been ignored.
3) One person supported the felling of 10% of the Canyon’s trees to make way for Native grasslands (and was promptly opposed by someone else who didn’t want to lose “even one tree” for that purpose).
4) Michael Rice, the President of the Glen Park Neighborhood Association (GPNA) was present, and a number of questions were directed to him as to their position and why they hadn’t acted to save the trees. The people with questions were members of GPNA.
5) There were a number of questions as to why District 8 Superintendent Scott Wiener was not listening to the concerns set out at this meeting. Someone hazarded a guess that he assumed that GPNA support represented the majority view.
With nearly 2700 signatures on the two petitions to stop the deforestation of Glen Canyon, it’s clear there is not anything close to community agreement on the changes that will affect the canyon. Add your voice, if you haven’t already and SIGN HERE.
[Edited to Add: During the Question Time, an audience member asked what SFForest’s position was on Prop B, the 2012 Parks Bond. Eric Miller stated that we are neutral on Prob B.]