Restricting Access to San Francisco’s Parks
March 2, 2015 5 Comments
Access to our parks and especially our Natural Areas is one of our key concerns with the Natural Areas Program – and the values that underlie it, now being spread to all open lands. (Click here for our article on Natural Areas Program restricts access.)
Sadly, despite a deluge of phone-calls and emails from all of you, the Supervisors did pass the ROSE Policy 4.2 which will extend the same thinking to all open areas. The Biodiversity Plan is intended to document all the areas in the city where native vegetation could grow – and hopes to extend the Plan to all those areas.
Recently, it seems that San Francisco Recreation and Parks found money to pay for a whole host of new restrictive signs. They’re even worse than the old ones.
We’ve heard the most complaints from McLaren Park, where besides restricting people to trails, they have prohibited bicycles and tree climbing.
THOU SHALT NOT…
- Go off the trails. If your kids want to explore or run around, or you want to picnic on the ground – better not go to a park.
- Ride your bicycle. There’s a flat prohibition: “No Bicycles.” If you were one of the bike-rider volunteers who thought you were building trails that you and your family could use – nope.
- Off leash dogs. Doesn’t matter if they’re well-behaved or that dogs need a place to run around. Not here.
- Climb trees. If your kid wants to clamber up a tree that looks made for climbing – well, we have climbing structures for that.
- Tie a swing on a tree. “Affixing items to trees is prohibited.” The only tree-swing SFRPD is okay with is on their logo.
- Pick flowers or mushrooms or interesting leaves. “Gathering vegetation is prohibited.”
ALIENATING OUR KIDS FROM NATURE
We’re sympathetic with the bike-riders who put in all those volunteer hours and now have been evicted from the trails. But we’re even more concerned about the kids (who may also be bike-riders).
Most kids don’t like hiking along a trail and just looking at stuff. If we want them to enjoy the outdoors and care about the parks, they need to explore. How many of us got hooked on nature climbing trees, chasing butterflies, wading in ponds or streams or puddles, picking flowers, throwing rocks into streams, feeding ducks and other birds, building forts, tying swings to trees?
All these activities are prohibited.
Those little screens everyone complains kids are hooked on these days? They have one major advantage over our parks – you can interact with them.
If you have a car and can drive out to actual wild lands – or if you’re lucky enough to have a backyard with a tree the kids can climb, and can put out a bird-feeder at home – you can provide your kids with some of these experiences. If you live in an apartment, these parks are your backyard. And you can’t do any of these things.
You can’t say, “Let’s go to Stow Lake and feed the ducks” – that’s prohibited. You can say, “Let’s go to Stow Lake and look at the ducks” but first, that’s a lot less appealing to a child, and second, once feeding stops, all you see are not-very-many birds swimming along at a distance. In some cultures, feeding ducks and fish and turtles has a significance beyond just bonding with animals… but too bad.
There are thousands of kids in our city who are learning that parks are mostly about not being allowed to do anything interesting.