A Rare Walk in Idyllic Threatened Forest – Sharp Park, Pacifica

Recently, the San Francisco Forest Alliance organized a walk in Sharp Park for a small group of supporters. Not on the familiar historic golf course; this was on the freeway’s other side, in the woods around the San Francisco Archery Range. Sharp Park is where the Natural Areas Program seeks to cut down 15,147 trees.

0 checking the map for the threatened trees

It was a rare opportunity. San Francisco Archery Range is an active range, open 365 days a year, dawn to dusk with bows and arrows in use. Safety can be an issue for walkers; no one wants to be punctured. It’s managed by an all-volunteer group, San Francisco Archers.  This walk coincided with a volunteer day, when no shooting was going on. (The Archers maintain the entire space through volunteer efforts.)

1 uphill trail in SF Archery range

In addition, Jim Robison, president of the group guided us through the trails – all of which have targets – and explained how to stay safe. For visitors, it’s critically important to sign in at the sign-in sheet beside the clubhouse, and then to follow the trails exactly as marked, with no back-tracking. No pets are allowed, even on leash. (The Archers are neutral on the issue of the trees, but have very strong views about range safety.)

2 Along the trail - lakeThe trail led uphill under the trees via a series of shallow wooden steps. Above us on the right, there was a steep forest hillside. On the left, we could see a small lake through the shrubs. It was a lovely sunny day, which was nice for a walk but yields some washed-out photographs…

3 Sharp Park Archery range trailAcross from the trail, another hillside was covered in trees. Further along, we got a clearer view of the lake. It’s made by damming a seasonal creek. On the left of the picture below, you can see the earthen dam covered with greenery.

All the water in the lake now comes from the watershed created by the hills and forest around. Before, it used to come from a cistern that has since been filled in, and formerly provided water to the golf course. Now the golf course gets water from other sources, and this lake is used by wildlife. It’s also, apparently, red-legged frog habitat.

4 Lake and trees in Sharp Park

We walked down past the lake on a little improvised bridge that crossed the creek, and up under the trees on the other side.

5 Target along trail - Sharp ParkAll along the trails, little markers indicated where archers should stand to aim at the targets backed by hay bales. The Archers do all the maintenance on the range, using volunteers and the funds raised from their members. They use no pesticides on the range. Recently, they called in arborists to trim tree branches that had become hazardous, as in the tree in the picture above.

This is the kind of maintenance that SF Forest Alliance strongly favors – dealing with hazardous trees where they could endanger people or property as a top priority.

5a Trees on opposite hillside

The beautiful green forest opposite climbed up the slope toward the ridge, a lovely sea of trees. There are no official trails into much of that forest, though some social trails do exist. Past the lake, the trail broadened into a shaded area with a picnic table, a green-painted wooden hut, an old outhouse with sun and moon tin appliques, and another target. Jim explained that the hut was used for refreshments during major tournaments, but the outhouse was an antique and nailed shut. They weren’t legal any more; instead, they had porta-potties.

antique outhouse Sharp Park

We turned onto a pathway that followed the old pipeline. It took us deeper into the forest, which was ever more idyllic. It was hard to believe that we were only minutes from the city, or that just over that ridge, there was Skyline College.

6 Along the old pipe trail in Sharp ParkThe ground was springy underfoot, and the whole place showed no signs of drought. Even the little lake, which depends on natural water, was quite full. Pacifica is foggy, and no doubt the trees had been harvesting the moisture from the fog and dripping it on the vegetation below.

7 Idyllic forest in Sharp Park archery range

8 forest wildlife habitat  in sharp park archery range

The area abounds in wildlife. We heard a lot of birds as we went through, hiding in the trees and bushes. On another visit, we saw rabbits and quail. Jim said the quail had raised two clutches of chicks this year. He also said there were deer, coyotes, and also bobcats. He described watching a mother bobcat teaching her kitten to hunt gophers, waiting for one to emerge and snagging it with a quick swipe of its paw. He knows of red-shouldered hawks and red-tailed hawks nesting in the area, as well as great horned owls. People think there may be mountain lions, too; they are known to range just over on the other side of the ridge, near Crystal Springs.

9 where the old tank was in Sharp Park Archery RangeThis is where the old cistern was filled in. It’s invisible now under wildflowers and shrubs.

10 meadow in the woods in Sharp park archery rangeWe ended our walk in a small meadow. Beyond, the trail was overgrown and we were running out of time; there was a meeting at the archery club-house at noon.  We hope that the trees will be saved; they are critical to the habitat and the ecology of the area. No herbicides are currently in use. There are large areas of undisturbed vegetation providing denning and nesting sites. We felt privileged to have had an opportunity to see this amazing place.

The San Francisco Forest Alliance plans more such walks in beautiful natural places, accompanied by people familiar with the area. If you would like to join us, please make sure we have your email address. (You can email us at SFForestNews@gmail.com ) We’ll be notifying our entire list.

WHAT TREE-CUTTING IS PLANNED?

Even though Sharp Park is in Pacifica, in San Mateo County, it is owned by SF Recreation and Parks Department, and has become part of the so-called “Natural Areas Program” (NAP). So converting this forested area into scrubland is part of their Plan – the “Significant Natural Resource Area Management Plan” (SNRAMP or “Sin-Ramp”). It calls for cutting down 15,147 trees.

In the idyllic areas we’ve described above,  they plan to remove three-quarters of the trees and encourage the rest to die out. It’s currently a deeply forested canyon east of the archery range, a true wild land and haven for wildlife. The long-term plan for it is “fewer trees and more scrub.”

Here’s the plan (based on a map from the SNRAMP – click on it to make it larger). The red numbers refer to tree removals – in most places, 75% of trees; in a few, 50%; and in some areas where there are few trees now, most of the existing trees.

snramp - sharp park- plan A

We strongly oppose this action. Aside from the beauty of the place, and the undisturbed wildlife habitat that would both be destroyed, we think it is environmentally irresponsible. Trees sequester carbon; eucalyptus, with its dense wood, its size, and its 400-500-year life-span, is particularly effective. In foggy areas, it captures moisture from the fog and drops it on the ground below, allowing for a dense damp understory that fights drought and resists fire. It cleans the air, especially fighting particulate pollution, by trapping particles on its leaves that eventually get washed onto the ground. It stabilizes hillsides with its intergrafted root system that functions like a living geotextile. And SNRAMP would require the use of large quantities of poisonous herbicides to prevent resprouting of the felled trees – herbicides that are likely get washed down the hillsides and into surface and ground water.

Pacifica actually has an ordinance prohibiting logging (removing more than 20 trees in a year). NAP’s answer to that is to see if the ordinance applies, and if it does, to try to get permission.

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7 Responses to A Rare Walk in Idyllic Threatened Forest – Sharp Park, Pacifica

  1. Tony Holiday says:

    Thanks for the excellent, well-written post and for trying to also help protect this forest from the evil-doers.

  2. Richard Crooks says:

    Society today is nothing but a bunch of trash. Don’t feed kids lunches, cut down trees, what in hell next. Starve the kids and murder the elderly. Doesn’t this make those in power feel good. We the people have to pick up guns and go hunting.

    [Webmaster: Thanks for your comment. We as an organization never advocate violence.]

  3. Sue says:

    Thanks for the informative article. I think the story will gain more local coverage in Pacifica and in San Mateo County over the next few weeks.

  4. janeweall says:

    Very wealthy interests such as the Alister McKenzie Foundation seek to privatize Sharp Park Golf Course, while keeping the costs and liabilities in the domain of the taxpayer. Cutting these trees is part of that process.

    [SFForest: Hmm, we weren’t aware of that. We do know of an effort – so far unsuccessful – to force San Francisco to turn over all Sharp Park, including the golf course, to the GGNRA. This would include closing the golf course and cutting down the trees.]

    • Frank says:

      Are you certain that those trees are part of the golf course? I don’t believe so but I may be wrong. From what I understand, I’ve seen the grant deed, of the deeding of the golf course, in the event that San Francisco does not keep ownership and does not keep it as a recreational location, that property reverts to the heirs. The effort of closing the golf course and trying to get it to go to the GGNRA was brought up by the group who is against the golf course being there.

  5. Pingback: McLaren Park walk: Looking at the Future, Minus 800 Fewer Trees | San Francisco Forest Alliance

  6. Pacifican says:

    This article has many inaccuracies. For example, it says “in most places, 75% of trees” will be removed. This gives the impression that 75% percent of trees will disappear. That’s incorrect. Overall, only 28% of the area’s trees will be removed (15,000 of the area’s 54,000 trees). This figure is from the NAP’s official report: http://sfrecpark.org/wp-content/uploads/SNRAMP_Final_Draft/6_Site-Specific/64SharpPark.pdf

    [SFFOREST: Thanks for stopping by to comment. We think maybe you misunderstood our post and map? We’re trying to show that the removal of trees is concentrated in areas that are currently forest. You’re right that 28% of the trees will be removed – and we can’t understand why more than a quarter of the trees qualifies as “only.” Especially in this world of climate change, and with the importance of habitat for wildlife, these trees count.

    The removal would reduce moisture and could endanger the lake where the red-legged frog lives. The lake is no longer fed from the water supply but instead depends on water from natural sources – including the fog precipitation captured by the trees and protected from evaporation by the dense vegetation.]

    Please join responsible environmental groups (like the Sierra Club) in supporting the city’s proposed habitat restoration at Sharp Park.

    [SFFOREST: We are very disappointed in the Sierra Club’s anti-environmental stance on this and on other major destructive projects like deforestation in the East Bay. It will reduce moisture, increase fire hazard, use toxic herbicides, and destroy habitat. We could not characterize that as “responsible.” For those who agree, here is a petition you can sign. Many Sierra Club members have already done so.]