Author Archives: Elizabeth Weise

Need your animal blessed? Sunday is St. Francis day.

Blessing of the Animals Oct. 8th

Please join St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church for its 3rd Annual Blessing of the Animals in honor of St. Francis, the patron saint of San Francisco.
October 8, 2017, Upper Douglass Dog Dog Park, Douglass @ 27th Street, 12:00 – 1:00 pm
All are welcome!
For more information please contact Reverend Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain,mdyerc@stanford.edu, 650-619-0781.

Also –

Walter Haas Park Cleanup Day Oct. 14th
Message from Robin Lee, Friends of Walter Haas Park:
Hello Neighbors – Happy Fall
Walter Haas Park Volunteer Work Day is coming up!
Park clean-up scheduled for Saturday, October 14th  from 9:00 am – 12:00 noon
Tools and Treats Provided!

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The First Friday Walkers take on Glen Park

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Cheeta Llanes, Dawn Daro, Sandy Hunt, Chris Greene, Eleanor Laney, Beth Skrondal, Nancy Slepicka under Penny Lane street sign. Photo by Carla Roth.

Story and photos by Murray Schneider

In 1967, as a freshly minted and struggling high school teacher only a few years older than my oldest student, I thought about leaving the classroom and becoming a tour guide. Instead, I stayed put and didn’t turn in my U.S. History textbook.

Fifty years later I finally got my wish – I became a guide.

I met Chris Greene when I did research for a recent Glen Park News article about World War II Japanese American relocation camps.

Chris’s a volunteer docent at the Presidio Officer’s Club, which mounted an exhibit called “Exclusion: The Presidio’s Role in World War II Japanese American Incarceration.”

Chris Greene taught American history, too and we bonded, which U.S. history teachers have a tendency to do.

 

Ohlone way

Chris Greene and Nancy Slepicka walking through Ohlone Way.

“The First Friday Walkers group started in 2012,” Chris emailed. “It’s made up of a core group of 10 members who meet once a month and explore San Francisco neighborhoods.”

Chris, who lives in the Marina District, went on to describe how the 10 women had been on 40 walks, taking them to Hayes Valley, the Haight Ashbury, Cole Valley, Bernal Heights and the Mission, how each month another woman is charged with organizing the walk, and how they meet for coffee before, then lunch after each walk.

“How’d you like to be our tour guide?” Chris said. She didn’t have to ask twice.

“We’ll meet at Tyger’s Coffee Shop, an old-timey establishment,” Chris emailed her FFW friends about Glen Park’s village diner, a quintessential ‘third place,’ where neighbors gather over scrambled eggs, pancakes and omelets.

So on August 4 the ladies assembled at Tyger’s, leaning over hot cakes, toast and coffee.

Nancy Slepicka is a retired country newspaper owner and proprietor of an independent bookstore. Recently relocated from the Midwest, she’s now settling in to Bernal Heights.

“I moved to San Francisco four years ago from Hillsboro, Illinois, a town of 5,000,” Nancy emailed just hours after the walk. “Places such as Glen Park and Bernal Heights feel like home, and Tyger’s seems small town, a family café filled with friendly folks, simple menu, good food, quick service, low prices.”

Craig's court garden

First Friday Walkers taking in Crags Court Community Garden

“It’s about community,” continued Nancy, who doubled down as a reporter for her family newspaper, the Montgomery County News that her great-grandfather bought in 1892. Community has factored in varied roles in Nancy’s life. She volunteered in January 2006 with Habitat for Humanity, five months after Hurricane Katrina. Nancy, with her late husband, Richard, assisted in building numerous houses in rural Louisiana.

No better place, then, to begin our exploration of Glen Park community than Penny Lane. Sandwiched between Surrey and Sussex Streets, the rutted easement was once a nineteenth century carriage path but over the last decade has been spruced up by neighbors with an assortment of California native plants.

Entering the Sierra Nevada-like pathway from Surrey Street, bookended by Surrey and Sussex house backyards, Eleanor Laney greeted habitat-friendly plants and took a breath. “This is pollinator heaven,” she said. Eleanor lives in Palo Alto and possesses an unflagging interest in Monarch butterfly preservation.

Looking about her, she said, “A miracle, the good works of neighbors establishing this lane.”

The nine women wandered along the pockmarked path, breaking into duets, singing the praises of books enjoyed, films seen, travels planned, museums visited and symphonies attended.

At Diamond Street, I gathered them beneath the Penny Lane street sign for a photograph.

“It seemed so appropriate to have a group of women from the 60’s pose on Penny Lane during the Summer of Love’s 50th anniversary,” Eleanor emailed later.

We then crossed Diamond Street at Sussex Street and headed for doppelganger Ohlone Way, destined for Elk Street and the new Recreation Center. On Ohlone Way they paired up again, a sorority of sisters as interested in swapping stories as surrendering to scenery.

On Elk Street, beneath the Holstein cow sign at the park entrance, I told them about canyon cows and dynamite factories, about Islais Creek and Franciscan chert rock. The sorts of anecdotes that history teachers hoodwink their students into knowledge with; the sorts of stories with which Evelyn Rose and Amy O’Hair of the Glen Park Neighborhood History Project excel.

Oskar Rosas, a Recreation and Park Director, met us at the Rec Center. He led the way through the remodeled facility. He showed the ladies the refinished gymnasium and escorted them along the hall, showing them the rock wall where Silver Tree day campers climbed and repelled.

“The Recreation Center is a gem in the Glen Park crown” Eleanor Laney emailed. “Our group was touched to learn from Mr. Rosas that parents who had been campers at Silver Tree now give the same gift to their children.”

Exiting the Rec Center, the women were presented with another gift – nearly 70 acres of significant natural wilderness, courtesy of Recreation and Park’s Natural Resources Division.

Earlier, Chris Greene had emailed her friends: “The Rec Center is the entry to the canyon where we will walk about a mile loop on its floor. It’s mostly flat and gorgeous – all shady forest, burbling creek and riparian plants, carefully tended by the city parks department and neighborhood volunteers.”

We strolled along Alms Road. Islias Creek trickled to our left, canopied by Arroyo willow. Pink flowering currant, wax myrtle and red elderberry blossomed amongst it. Sloped grass lands shadowed us to our right, marbled with coyote brush. California oak dotted the hillside. Chert rock outcrops perforated the ridge, camouflaging Berkeley Way and Crags Court.

I told the women of the Natural Resources Division’s riparian restoration efforts, of its land management and stewardship mission. I told them of the Great horned dead owl Friends of Glen Canyon Park volunteers found in March 2016, victim of second generation rodenticide. I told them how coyotes still den here, how unleashed dogs can fall victim to these crafty creatures, and how a coyote was found this year at Douglass Playground, another victim of rodent poisoning.

Beyond the boardwalk and the seep, where pumpkin spiders preen during Halloween, I told them how once this pristine landscape was threatened by transportation “visionaries” who wanted to construct a freeway through it, and how these transit gurus were thwarted by three neighborhood women, now honored by a trail, the Gum Tree Girls Trail, named for them.

It hit a bull’s eye with Nancy Slepicka, from the Land of Lincoln, who’d partnered with the Audubon Society to maintain a sanctuary for Illinois birds.

“It felt like home when I learned of the Rec & Park’s volunteer work,” she wrote. “My late husband and I were active volunteers in Montgomery County Natural Area Guardians (NAGs), restoring and preserving native Illinois prairies.”

We continued along Islais Creek, circling to its west bank. I pointed across the canyon to the house on Berkeley way where two fire fighters, Vincent Perez and Anthony Valerio, perished in 2011. Behind us stood a hollowed-out tree where Glenridge nursery school children had fashioned a make-believe fairy house. Continuing, we came to a cross-over bridge. A pile of willow branches blanketed the creek bank, a deterrent placed there by NRD’s gardener, Steve Phillips, as a means to curtail erosion. Back on Alms Road, so named because nineteenth century San Francisco horse carriages clattered along it to Laguna Honda Hospital, we eventually regained Elk Street.

Along Chenery Street the women jig sawed again.

I caught up with Sandy Hunt. She lives in North Beach and emailed two days afterward that she was “pleased the city had invested so much in making Glen Park such a sweet place to live.”

“It was a ‘trip’ to compare the neighborhood with where I live,” she wrote. “What a difference. The parking! You are allowed four hours, compared to our two. And I saw no tour busses or tourists. Where I live, I am aware of both, as well as the increasing number of homeless.”

“Fortunately,” Sandy continued, conjuring Columbus Avenue’s City Lights, “we have a bookstore like yours.”

The subject of Bird & Beckett Books and Records had arisen during lunch, once we’d returned to Tyger’s. Nancy Slepicka suggested the walking group make a donation to my favorite cause to show its appreciation.

“Buy a book at Bird & Beckett,” I said.

Across the table, Nancy nodded. A small newsstand/bookstore in her town was about to close in the late 80s and she and her husband decided to buy it, moving the Montgomery County News offices to the second floor. The couple renovated the main floor into a bookstore they named – So Many Books….and More.

“We had a lot of fun with the book store, hosting author signings and readings for children,” Nancy wrote. “When we retired in 2007 I placed a classified ad in the paper: ‘Always wanted to own a book store? Call Nancy.’ My phone rang at 8 a.m. One of our frequent customers, Barb Adams, said ‘Yes. Let’s talk.’”

“We sold the bookstore to Barb,” Nancy continued. “It was a win-win for Richard and me, as well as the town – every town should have a bookstore.”

Ten years later it’s still operating as Books & Moore, the surname of Barb Adams’ husband.

“Books and music were among Richard’s passion,” Nancy wrote. “So my first visit to Bird & Beckett, my favorite San Francisco bookstore, to listen to the Grant Levin Trio was an emotional evening.”

“I appreciate that Glen Park supports Bird & Beckett and the Glen Park News,” she continued. “It represents and reinforces the important sense of place that is essential to community.”

Lunch done, we stood, exchanging goodbyes. A few of the women peeled off but the day wasn’t quite over. Fifteen minutes later we arrived at the Crags Court Community Garden.

“Of course we loved the walk along the willow wrapped canyon and hearing your stories about the barn owls and other canyon fauna,” Eleanor Laney wrote one day after the walk, “but the cherry on top of our Glen Canyon day was the visit to the Crags Court’s garden.”

The secret garden is cushioned atop Glen Canyon, and the best way to arrive is by foot.

Eleanor wrote:

“Perched unexpectedly on a steep hill, the well-tended garden is blessed with the perfect climate, sun, water, breeze as evidenced by the robust health of ALL the plants. Raised beds of huge and colorful dahlias, speckled lettuce, cascading clematis were all enhanced by the gently falling summer drizzle.”

On a warm summer’s day this August, the ladies of the First Friday Walkers penned another chapter in Glen Park history. They personalized it in a signature style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crags Court Community Garden: A hidden gem in Glen Park

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By Murray Schneider

The Crags Court Community Garden may be the best kept secret in Bay Area urban gardening.

Perched high above the floor of Glen Canyon, the terraced garden boasts 18 garden beds served by 25 gardeners who grow winter crops such as lettuce, kale, spinach, beans, beets, chard, celery, red potatoes and carrots.

Ornamental dahlias, as well. Throw in honeybee hives, and you’ll gain a hideaway, lodged between Glen Park and Diamond Heights that, for a few yards, runs parallel to the rim of Glen Canyon.

2“The best way to access us is from the bottom of the canyon,” said Mary Devereaux, a retired City College bi-lingual teacher and Crags Court gardener.

Forgo arriving by automobile. Instead, take the freshly graded Glen Canyon Coyote Crags Trail. Only a short distance from the renovated Recreation Center, make a dog leg up the canyon’s eastern slope. Silver Tree Day camp shadows you and Islais Creek willow bends below you. Silhouetted dogwood and elderberry bookend the leaning willow. Pleasant paths and box steps ease you along your way. A sign indicating Crags Court guides you. Search for a barn owl box mounted on a Monterey pine. When you see it you’ll know your getting close. A few more steps and you’ll reach your destination.

Once there, visitors will experience — as a plaque dedicated to the garden’s founder, the late Loretta Starves Stack says  — “beauty, joy and relaxation.”

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Leslie Moxley picking dahlias at crest of CCCG.

On an anomalous warm Wednesday afternoon in June, Mary Devereaux sat among the garden’s ripe lemons, apples and perfumed herbs.

“We’re open to the public during daylight hours,” Devereaux said.

With the imprimatur of the Recreation and Park Department, which supplies its water and assisted in the construction of state-of-the-art garden beds, the CCCG was the inspiration of Glenridge resident, Loretta Starvus Stack.

Today the CCCG is surrounded by 1970s-style houses, canopied by pines, some succumbing to pitch canker.

“The ground wasn’t stable enough to build upon,” volunteered Leslie Moxley, who, like Devereaux, is a long time CCCG gardener.

PlaqueBoth Devereaux and Moxley reclined on garden chairs, reminiscing about what they’d accomplished over two decades. They looked across the canyon at a riparian corridor plush with wax myrtle and red alder. To their north Sutro Tower peeked beneath ballooning clouds. As evidence of the instability of the ground, a chair listed downhill, tilting at a 15-degree angle.

While Moxley lives in the neighborhood and Devereaux resides in Noe Valley, the garden, one of 35 such City odes to greenery, is available to anyone in the San Francisco, as it falls under the rubric of Rec and Park regulations.

“The City is invested in community gardens,” said Devereaux, who has been turning her green thumb to raising spinach, garlic, onions, peas and zucchini since 1996. “The City mandates that we provide an organic garden and use no harmful pesticides.”

4The garden beds are positioned in rank and file order, which allow gardeners to easily wheelbarrow mulch and remove debris. The beds are raised so that gardeners don’t have to kneel. Three 50-foot hoses are spaced throughout the garden, which hugs the Crags Court cul-du-sac. While it doesn’t have a locked gate, the garden does offer a wooden fence. Navigating the court’s turn around several years ago, a driver plowed into it.

“The City came out and repaired it,” said Moxley, who has been gardening here since 1999.

Devereaux and Moxley have assumed the mantle of the community garden leadership, taking on the roles of Garden Secretary and Garden Coordinator respectively. Devereaux piles up four days a week, probably logging in 15-to-16 hours while Moxley calendars three days a week, clocking in at 10 hours.

It’s not just in the service of their own garden plots.

“There are common areas and each needs tending such as trellises that require trimming,” said Moxley. “The hillside has to be weeded, as do the areas adjacent to the street fence.”

CCCG gardeners are expected to participate in three work days a year, which can include picking up debris, weeding, mulching and pruning in communal space.

The common areas boast fragrant sunflowers, which play host to pollinating bees, as well as blueberries, apples and Meyer lemons awaiting picking.

“We even grow pumpkin plants,” said Devereaux. “During each fall harvest we give pumpkins to children.”

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Mary Davereaux inspecting CCCG vegetables.

Kids aren’t strangers to the garden, and not just neighborhood children who wander through.

“Children from Glenridge Nursery School have climbed the trail for years,” said Devereaux, about the Glen Canyon Co-op pre-school kids who troop up hill behind their teachers and parents. “The kids begin to learn how to garden, to love the hoses and enjoy getting muddy.”

“We have a short waiting list of 30 gardeners now,” said Moxley. “It’s foggy and windy this high and isn’t optimum for summer crops such as tomatoes, corn and cucumbers.”

Working within the parameters of City policies, Moxley oversees the waiting list.

“Perspective gardeners can sign up on the Rec and Park website,” she explained

Candidates eventually are routed to Moxley, and she shows no preference to neighborhood applicants. But putting up annual fruits, flowers and vegetables require commitment and propinquity is a factor, as applicants are expected to work year round, keeping their plot and surrounding paths free of weeds.

“Each gardener pays $35 a year for which they share garden tools, water and access to our shed,” she said. “They sign a contract that commits each to three days a year of common area work time, a commitment to compost, remove garbage and plant no invasive species.”

“I’m the oldest gardener,” said Devereaux, who grows poppies, roses and daffodils in addition to her veggies. “With the canyon right here, I love the wildness of this place.”

The garden is prolific, gifting a bounty of fruits and vegetables.

“We grow more then we can use and occasionally donate lettuce, kale and zucchini to the Martin de Porres House of Hospitality,” said Mary Devereaux, about a Potrero Avenue soup kitchen that serves daily breakfast and lunch during the week.

As the afternoon sun began descending, Devereaux and Moxley surveyed eucalyptus duff, thistle, radish and lavender embroidered in a quilt of greenery stitching its way down the incline from the canyon’s crest. Above them a red-tailed hawk circled for rodents, possibly gophers that play havoc with the women’s garden beds. Below them the chatter of Silver Tree children mingled with the melodies of songbirds sequestered among California oak branches.

“This place gives me such a sense of peace, so far away from the insanity on the other side of the fence,” said Moxley.

Atop the ridge, honeybees choreographed entrances and exits to and from a hive adjacent to a Crags Court house. A single bee colony requires one acre of forage, biologists believe.

The synergy between the garden and the canyon below provide radish, dandelions and mustard habitat.

“It’s a gift to be able to share this garden, if for only five minutes, with people and with families” said Leslie Moxley.

If they cultivate it, Mary Devereaux and Leslie Moxley believe, people will come.

If you do, though, meander through 70-acre Glen Canyon, then top a hill.

There, time stands still.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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