Here’s the story of the Mount Davidson Eagle Scout bench, from its sudden removal by the Natural Areas Program, to the silly lie included in the Environmental Impact Report on the Natural Resource Areas Management Plan. The Natural Area Program’s disregard for the public is illustrated at every twist and turn along the way.
Once upon a time, there was a nice little bench on Mt. Davidson. It was built by Boy Scouts. It wasn’t much, but people liked it and it was well used.
Then one day the bench disappeared. Who were the vandals?
It turns out it was actually the work of our RPD Natural Areas Program. When people complained they received this response from NAP management:
CC: XXXXXXXXXXXX; Lisa.Wayne@sfgov.org
Subject: Re: Bench missing on Mt. Davidson
Date: Thu, 27 May 2010 08:42:45 -0700
The bench that you’re referring to was installed by the Recreation and Park Natural Areas Program. It was installed a number of years ago on this site to take advantage of the views, beauty and serenity of the plateau. We monitored the use of the bench and it unfortunately became an attractive nuisance. The secluded location was a draw for night time drinking and smoking. Bottles were thrown down the hill slope and most often broke, causing a hazard for both animals and people. Secondly the bench became a draw for commercial dog walkers, at times with more than 12 dogs in the area at once. This activity resulted in trampling of this sensitive slope, disturbance of wildlife and the creation of trails around the bench. One of the trails remains in the grassland below the bench location. After consideration we concluded it was best to remove this bench.
Over the coming year we will evaluate the installation of benches city-wide. This will be done in correlation with a natural areas trail project . Due to the activities associated with this bench we unfortunately do not have intentions to re-install one on the lower plateau at Mount Davidson.
Sorry for the disappointment this may bring,
Natural Areas Program
Why does NAP management take credit for installing this popular bench? They had nothing to do with it. Why did they remove it? Because people liked it and it attracted them to this area of the park. Clearly the NAP does not want us in their Natural Areas.
After much pressure, the NAP finally installed a replacement bench a bit higher up the mountain. For some reason they sited it right under a dead tree. In fact, it was a tree they had killed by girdling some years earlier. Given the NAP’s zeal for removing even slightly hazardous trees along its “trail Improvement” projects, it seems especially odd they would site a popular amenity directly under this tree.
Can you guess what happened next? The tree fell over right across the bench. Thankfully no one was sitting there at the time.
In the photo below you can see where a wide ring of bark was cut away to kill the tree.
It appears when the facts don’t suit the writers of the EIR, they substitute other “facts.”
That brings us to today. The final Environmental Impact Report for the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan (SNRAMP) has been released. In the section addressing public comments made during review of the draft EIR the bench makes another appearance. (page 4-340) In response to questions raised by the public about the removal of benches from NAP areas, some specifically citing the Mt Davidson bench, the NAP offers the following response,
“These comments refer to prohibition benches and the removal of a bench at Mt. Davidson Park. In 2011, SFRPD removed a bench on the northern portion of Mt. Davidson because it was rotting and unsafe for sitting. In late 2012, SFRPD installed a replacement bench close to where the unsafe bench had been located.”
“rotting and unsafe for sitting”?. That is a bold lie. How many other items in the SNRAMP EIR are based on fabrications like this? (Quite a few)
Claiming the original was unsafe and installing a replacement right under a tree they purposefully killed – That is disturbingly ironic.
This little story is just the tip of the iceberg.
See the rest of the problems with the SNRAMP EIR at:
Additional coments against EIR organized on CA Environmental Quality Act Criteria
This is infuriating how a City agency answers the public.it’s a good example of broken trust.
Wow so distressing such good work you are doing I am struggling w our horses in winter the oldest one had to be put down last Tuesday evening in freezing cold weather – she’s over the rainbow bridge to green pastures now – so Much work needed there
I was one of the poor schmucks who wasted a year of our lives on the Natural Areas Program Citizens Advisory Committee (NAPCAC). We were theoretically responsible for revising the first draft of the management plan for NAP. The first draft said that recreational access to the top of Mt. Davidson should be restricted to protect fragile native plants. That’s the area where the bench was.
We had two Ph.D. ecologists from major universities on the committee. One lived near Mt Davidson at the time and visited there often. He said it was pointless to restrict recreational access to that area because the reason why there were few plants was because the soil is thin and rocky chert NOT because there was too much recreational traffic.
That and many other suggestions made by these two academic ecologists was ignored by NAP. Although NAPCAC was able to pass a proposal for revision (7 to 5), the nativists came to the Board of Supervisors and demanded that the NAPCAC proposal be trashed. The BOS Committee voted 2-to-1 to trash our one-year effort to produce a plan that would reflect solid science and the public’s wishes to preserve both its urban forest and its recreational access.
The history of NAP is a 20-year saga of bad science and bad faith. It is also a story of utter failure. After destroying everything for 20 years there is no noticeable increase in native plants. They are weed-infested, fenced pens.
this makes me want to cry…
I am afraid there is nothing we can do to stop these people – they certainly show no regard to the environment, nor the people who live here and want to keep our healthy, mature trees.