CARING FOR OUR CANYON
On your next visit to Glen Canyon Park you will see a stark contrast in the landscape where majestic Eucalyptus stood for more than a century lining Alms Road. The removal of these signature trees over the past two weeks has been the source of heated controversy surrounding the facilities renovation project for almost a year before it started.
The project never should have pitted the playground and tennis courts against the trees. But the time for passionate pleas has passed, just like the trees, and it’s now time to work on reuniting our community.
The way forward is going to require broader community involvement, compromise, and changes to the policies and processes that did not serve us well. Working together, though, we can further common goals of keeping our canyon safe, healthy and accessible to recreational users and the diverse species and wildlife that thrive in the ecosystems that exist in few urban areas.
In order to achieve success we are asking for transparency and clarity with projects and tree management throughout the canyon in the following ways:
- Routine maintenance – conduct tree assessments more frequently than once every 50 years and perform maintenance on a routine basis. If that means shifting money from other San Francisco Rec and Park budgets in order to do so, heed the call this is a critical issue for the canyon.
- Tree safety – if a tree poses a legitimate threat to the imminent safety of people the tree should be removed. In March of last year 24 trees among 627 evaluated were identified by the Rec and Park hired arborist as being hazardous yet 22 of them have not been remediated as of today.
- “Poor Suitability” – dispense with this tree assessment category altogether. It uses a hodgepodge of criteria that factors in whether a tree is too big, the wrong species or invasive, among other things that have little or nothing to do with safety. Correspondence to the arborist shows that Rec and Park staff who are overseeing the current tree removal do not even understand what “poor suitability” entails. Neither do we.
- Removal notification – mark every tree with a clear and specific explanation for why it’s being recommended for removal. While a generic 30-day notice has been placed on doomed trees, there’s no reason why a listing cannot be maintained online, as well. And residents should be able to sign up for automatic alerts notifying them when trees get placed on the list and the reason it will be removed.
- Incorporate trees – find creative ways for preserving trees in project design, not simply removing them for interfering with architectural grandeur.
- Community engagement – seek participation of the canyon’s visitors and neighbors throughout the year. Challenge us for solutions to complex and controversial issues, and solicit our ideas rather than just seeking our validation for variations of a standard mold that is applied to all parks.
- True representation – no one group or organization speaks for the thousands of people who have a stake in the care of our canyon. Seek diverse and wide participation in the community meetings – including those tasked with organizing and hosting them – that play an important role in determining how taxpayer funds are allocated. And it’s time for those watching from the sidelines to get involved.
It’s evident from the standing room-only crowds and rancor during many community meetings held by our district supervisor and other groups after the project’s complete plan was disclosed that the process needs real improvement.
There are many good things planned for the canyon, and our community lobbied hard and voted together to secure substantial funding for continued work.
Now is the time to learn from the significant problems we encountered and fix the process in order to reach a true semblance of consensus going forward. Our canyon is worth it.
— Dave Emanuel lives in Glen Park. He is a member of the San Francisco Forest Alliance, a nonprofit organization that cares deeply about the stewardship of parks, open space and urban forests (http://sfforest.net).