Huge boulder plummets down side of Glen Canyon into path

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Franciscan chert bolder fell from eastern slope of Glen Canyon to Alms Road. Friends of Glen Canyon Park stare in astonishment. Feb. 22, 2017. Photo by Murray Schneider.

By Murray Schneider

A huge chunk of Franciscan chert rock plummeted from the eastern slopes of Glen Canyon to Alms Road sometime between February 15 and February 22. The ominous-looking boulder greeted a group of volunteers from Friends of Glen Canyon Park as they made their way along the fire road, destined for thickets of invasive mustard they were scheduled to remove north of Radish Hill along Coyote Crags Trail.

It is unclear if the recent deluge of winter rain, which has witnessed Islais Creek rise and run rapidly, was responsible for the giant rock rocketing down the hillside.

One fact is indisputable. If the boulder had careened down the drenched hillside while recreational dog walkers trailed behind their canines, a catastrophe might have taken place.

Curious, six Recreation and Park volunteers circled the boulder and studied it.

“Any natural area can be dangerous, especially rock canyons, said Rob Oreglia, who has volunteered with Rec and Park’ Natural Resources Division for fifteen years. “Chert fractures.”

Borrowing an expression from our national pastime, the Noe Valley resident continued:

“Mother nature has a way of batting clean up!”

If anyone needed proof that Glen Canyon is not an ornamental rose garden, the inert rock is ample evidence.

Glen Canyon is 70 acres of wilderness in the heart of the City.

It is the home to great-horned owls and red-tailed hawks, rare California grasses, oak and redwood trees, wild coyotes, bountiful California wildflowers, and the second longest above ground creek in the City.

Stillings Avenue’s Jim Hanratty, a Natural Resources Division volunteer, toed the boulder, confirming that Glen Park’s open space is also home to craggy chert outcrops.

Happily, most of the rock formation remained visible, in tact, looming large below Berkeley Way. Another volunteer, Sam Orr, who lives in Bernal Heights, stared up at Berkeley Way, estimating the distance and the rate of speed the rock may have gained plunging down the hill.

While Orr did his mental calculus, a women approached. She identified herself as a mother of Glenridge nursery school child. She wondered if the volunteer had heard of the mudslide blocking the trail paralleling Alms Road, a path Glenridge students have dubbed Banana Slug Way.

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Mud slide on road paralleling Alms Road that leads to Glenridge Nursery School. Feb. 22, 2017. Photo by Murray Schneider.

“The hillside gave way,” she volunteered. “The mud is obstructing the trail very close to the fairy tree and it’s dangerous. It’s been this way for days.”

The woman’s concern was reported to a Rec and Park gardener, who led the group to investigate. They crossed over Islais Creek, which is a far cry from San Jose’s Coyote Creek that crested its banks on February 21, causing hundreds of people to evacuate their homes.

The fairy tree is a hollowed-out wood perennial children have festooned with countless charms, dolls and trinkets paying homage to childhood favorites such as “Harry Potter,” and “Wind in the Willows.”

A sludge of mud greeted the volunteers. The glop had jumped a retaining wall and lay only a foot from a fence overlooking the creek, obstructing the path. Glenridge parents, escorting their children to school, must skirt the impediment.

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Islias Creek full and running. Feb. 22, 2017. Photo by Murray Schneider.

The hillside that ends at O’Shaughnessy Boulevard remained a mucky mire.

Rob Oreglia surveyed the hill that had given way. Now a large earthen pit stared back at him.

He continued looking at the hill, weakened and made unstable by a torrent of rain.

“Natural Areas are always changing,” he offered, still carrying three loppers he had used in the service of removing Himalayan blackberry. “Nature has a way of shaping such a space.”

Recreation and Park may steward Glen Canyon, but while Mother Nature has her way shaping Glen Park’s open space, Rec and Park isn’t idle.

It’ll shove back.

It’s a safe bet that once the rains abate, Banana Slug Way will be cleared.

The bolder on Alms Road?

Even Rec and Park can’t push it back up the hill.

It’s unclear at this time if it will stay in place.

If it remains where it is, though, it’s a testimony to forces bigger than any of us.

 

 

 

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Rainbow over Glen Park

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A rainbow over Glen Park on February 21, 2017. Photo by Marian Dalere.

Marion Dalere, of Dalere’s Beauty Salon at 660 Chenery Street, caught this photo of a rainbow over Glen Park during her lunch break on Tuesday.

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Glen Park’s up for a $100,000 grant to make our Greenway even greener.

By Murray Schneider

As we walk through our neighborhood, the inordinate amount of work necessary to keep our streets and bits of greenery as lovely as they are isn’t always apparent. Take, for example, the Greenway that runs parallel to Bosworth Street. Casual strollers don’t see the many hours of work, both physical labor as well as grant-writing, committee-sitting and government dealing-with that make it not just an overgrown nest but an swath of green less than 20 feet from a busy thoroughfare. Here’s a look into some of that behind-the-scenes work.

The physical part

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Stephany Wilkes, sheep shearer, author, programmer and Glen Park volunteer.

Stephany Wilkes shears sheep from January through July, traveling as far as Nevada, Oregon and Washington to garner as much as eight pounds of wool in 10 minutes from a single ewe.

But on January 14, closer to her Arbor Street home, she turned her attention to weeding hundreds of pounds of Cape ivy in three hours. Her morning work took her between Lippard and Chilton Avenues, along a one block stretch of the proposed Glen Park Greenway.

She wasn’t without assistance.

“Twenty-four people came out,” said Wilkes, sipping a cup of herb tea two weeks later at Destination Bakery. She’d come to the Chenery Street bakery to collect two cakes for a scheduled quarterly Glen Park Association meeting that would honor long serving GPA president, Michael Rice. “Public Works sent help from its Clean and Green Crew, as well as loaning us tools.”

The January 14 work party was a collaborative effort. It included Glen Park Association volunteers, supported by the Street Park Program begun by San Francisco Public Works and the San Francisco Parks Alliance that empowers city residents to oversee unused neighborhood land, often owned by Public Works and can also be on CalTrain, PUC or Caltrans property.

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Greenway as it looked after January 14 work party finished with volunteer effort.

“A week before I did a walk through with a City arborist,” said Wilkes, who chairs the Glen Park Association Health and Environmental Committee. “I obtained guidance about which species were safe to prune or remove.”

Wilkes, who enjoys knitting, which is how she became interested in sheep and wool in the first place, was tapped to organize the January morning event.

Unlike lambs who never are in a hurry to get fleeced and who become anxious when separated from their flock, her volunteers selected gloves, scattered along the path, and set about pulling weeds.

Thirty minutes earlier, Wilkes’ MINI-Cooper had brimmed with loaned Public Works loppers, rakes, shovels burlap bags, gloves and vests.

“Herding and shearing sheep takes much, much, more energy, skill and resources than organizing volunteers,” volunteered Wilkes. “Organizing a clean-up is literally nothing compared to a managing a flock.”

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Public Works Clean and Green Crew working along the Greenway pathway.

Wilkes has several paying gigs, including writing software and writing as a free-lancer. Her byline is often seen in Hobby Farms magazine. This is one of her ‘just for fun’ activities.

As Wilkes walked along the pathway, her neighbors pitched in. Nicholas Dewar and Michael Rice topped the incline, tackling tendrils woven into the soil. Thickets of Cape ivy cloaked the slope up to Bosworth’s sidewalk edge. After a while, they unfurled a burlap bag, fashioned a hammock of uprooted ivy and descended to the path. Later, Dewar and John Walmsley carried it and additional bags to Lippard Avenue. Adam King attacked the hummock as if he were no stranger to such work. At Lippard’s crest, Killian Murphy worked, his cuffs grazed with thistle while Susanna Russo immersed herself ankle-deep in Cape ivy while jousting with a horizontal tree limb. Ann Edwards and Bonnee Waldstein, didn’t take to the slope, remaining below, filling their own bags.

While not as difficult as shepherding sheep, Wilkes had to overcome her share of logistic hurdles pulling off the morning’s exercise.

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Bonnee Waldstein cleaning in the Greenway.

“Coordinating this with Public Works and Recology, particularly the date, wasn’t easy,” conceded Wilkes, who on the day of the work party wore brown overalls and a scarf covering her hair.

She smiled when the Recology vehicle braked on schedule. “I plan around the truck’s availability.”

“Lippard to Chilton is a particularly gnarly stretch of the Greenway,” explained Wilkes, formerly the GPA’s recording secretary. “It’s more densely overgrown.”

She’s done this before. Last June, 15 neighbors had cleared ivy and trash, filling 90 bags of compostable material from Brompton Avenue to Lippard Avenue. When you think that the average weekend gardner fills only four or five, it’s a whole lot of weeding going on.

Doing this sort of public clean-up isn’t the same as just getting up on a Sunday morning, seeing it’s clear and thinking “Maybe I’ll tackle that front flower bed this morning.” The morning’s activities actually involved long-term planning.

“First, we require that residents identify the space and lead the visioning process,” Marissa Alexander, Parks Alliance Streets Parks Program Manager, emailed the Glen Park News. “This ensures that the project reflects the needs and wants of the neighbors.”

The Glen Park Greenway project was first envisioned in the Glen Park Community Plan, a process begun in 2003 and adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2012. With an objective of sustaining and improving an informal greenway and pedestrian path on land owned by the City and the Archdiocese, its vision is to connect downtown Glen Park with Glen Canyon Park. Numerous community meetings were held. With various stakeholders on board, the Greenway Project was seeded with a $40,000 grant from a private foundation. Former District 8 supervisor Scott Wiener kicked in another $10,000 while the GPA contributed $5,000.

A lion’s share of the money went to retain Surfacedesign, Inc, a landscape architecture firm engaged to conceptualize a project that would thread its way from Brompton to Burnside Avenues. With community input, particularly from those residents paralleling the path sandwiched between backyards and Bosworth Street, the vision was tweaked and massaged. Sunny meadows and wooded areas, bookended by Brompton and Lippard Avenues, will be paved with decomposed granite, a sturdy and porous material. Interpretive signage, complemented by low wattage overhead-lighting, will be added and refuge and waste bags will punctuate the walk. Between Lippard and Chilton Avenues a wooded area will be added. St. John School came on board, and between Chilton and Burnside Avenues there will be more of the same. West of Burnside the Greenway path continues on Paradise Avenue to Elk Street, ending at Glen Canyon Park.

“I care about the Greenway,” said Wilkes, a native of Detroit. She’s lived in San Francisco for 10 years and in Glen Park for four of those years. “It’s a resource to be stewarded.”

“We want to plant that thought with City agencies,” continued Wilkes. “The GPA can go to City agencies now and be able to say, ‘See, we’re working together as a community to establish a relationship with you.’”

“It was wonderful to see such a strong neighborhood presence that Saturday morning,” said Alexander, who was on site January 14 to see for herself. “The volunteers and the Clean and Green Crew cleared out massive amounts of invasive and over-grown plants to help make the pathway more accessible for neighbors and ensure the health of the flora.”

The meeting part

After 12 years of meetings, minutes, poring over city documents and generally shepherding our neighborhood, Michael Rice last month handed his GPA presidential baton to Scott Stawicki. He engineered one final task before he departed, still paying it forward.

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New GPA Vice President Stephany Wilkes and outgoing President Michael Rice. Photo by Michael Waldstein.

“Jim Edwards, Nicholas Dewar and Adam King are writing a Community Challenge Grant,” Rice told the Glen Park News. “The grant must be submitted by March 24 and can reach up to $100,000. If we receive it, we’ll use monies to plant trees and shrubs and provide irrigation along the Greenway.”

The Challenge Grant is a grant program administered through the City Administrators office at City Hall. The program provides grants to communities to fund beautification projects, mostly centered on greening and art. The Diamond Heights median project is a recent recipient.

“The goals of the CCG are to promote vibrant physical improvements and greening of public spaces, engaging residents and businesses in creating welcoming places for community building,” emailed Marissa Alexander.

All CCG projects require that the community commit a certain amount of volunteer hours to ensure the project’s success. Thankfully, Glen Park does not lack for those willing and able to do such work.

“Community clean-up days like the one on January 14 help to demonstrate that neighbors are invested in the project and will volunteer their time to steward the land during and after the grant period,” Alexander told the Glen Park News.

The volunteers who come out for that work are often stories unto themselves. In Wilke’s case, it would be a fairly safe wager that there’s more Cape ivy in San Francisco than there are sheep shearers.

The evening she collected the Destination Bakery cakes for Michael Rice’s St. John send off, Stephany Wilkes was elected vice president of the Glen Park Association.

Neither of Rice’s cakes was light, but a lot lighter than an average single fleece weight of somewhere between five and fifteen pounds. depending on the breed of sheep she is used to shearing throughout the western United States.

That evening she shed her January 14 overalls, undoubtedly the same ones she’s pulled on countless times deploying half nelsons upon Mendocino and Humboldt County rams.

In exchange, she donned what she calls her “treasured” poncho, a hand woven garment, crafted for her by Robin Lynde of Vacaville, whose flock she often tends. It’s made of Jacob sheep wool from Lynde’s ranch and blended with wool from nearby Timm Ranch. There are three colors used — undyed gray, Jacob; Jacob wool dyed with black walnut; and undyed, white wool.

With every chair taken in the elementary school classroom that evening, several by friends whom she’d directed on January 14, Stephany Wilkes didn’t look at all out of place draped in her sheep herder’s poncho.

After all, earlier in the month she’d knit another stitch in both hers and Glen Park’s fabric, telling the Glen Park News:

“I simply wanted some yarn.”

 

 

 

 

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