San Francisco Urban Riders, (SFUR) a group of bicycle riders, has a good post on saving Mount Sutro Trails. The article was intended to encourage cyclists to come to the meeting that UCSF held yesterday (and to the walk planned for Saturday October 24th). We say it’s a good post, because even though they come down on the other side of our effort to save Mt Sutro, there’s a lot there we agree with. [ETA: We particularly liked that they mentioned we think the forest is “a marvel.” Yes.] And one point we don’t.
First, what we agree with is that the trail-building on Mt Sutro is really good work, and we appreciate it. We’ve encountered mountain bikers up there, and they are unfailingly courteous and pleasant. We like having this wild area open to this activity. (See the posts on Museum-ification.) Some of us ride, too. And for those who volunteer to keep the trails open for everyone to use, thank you.
So, where do we disagree?
The main point is the “long dry spells.” If you’ve been riding your bikes up there, you know there aren’t any. Mount Sutro is in the fog belt. After a short spring comes the summer fog, and we’re lucky to get 3-4 fogless days at a stretch before the fog rolls in again. And when it’s foggy, the tall eucs grab the moisture, and it practically rains inside the forest. The duff holds in the moisture like a sponge; the blackberry and and ivy protect it from evaporation.
UCSF spoke about a high-risk period from September to November, when the fog disappears and we get hot dry winds. So we are keeping a Fog Log. Check it out.
We also disagree with Jake Sigg’s analysis of eucalyptus. But we’ll get to that separately.
Back to the topic at hand. We appreciate that SFUR and Mt Sutro Stewards have been doing marvelous work in keeping the trails open. What we don’t see is why this connects to the dangerous plan to gut nearly a quarter of the forest. The only reason seems to be some strange kind of a reciprocity – we keep the trails open, so help us get FEMA funding for a project we want. The fire danger in the two selected areas is minimal – so it has to be about something else. When the leaders talk longingly of lost wildflower meadows (like Twin Peaks?) it would seem that might just be native plants.
The support of the neighbors who live with mountain and the forest is also important to encouraging UCSF to keep the trails open to communities like bikers. We share a lot of common ground (no pun intended).
The planned 14-acre tree-felling project though, has nothing to recommend it, and a lot of downsides for the surrounding communities:
- An increase in fire hazard;
- An artificial re-rating of the area from moderate fire risk to very high fire risk, driving up insurance and reducing home values;
- Gallons of toxic herbicides being spread on steep slopes above our neighborhoods;
- The risk of landslides once the trees are gone; the loss of a windbreak;
- and a loss of the sight, the scent, the sounds of the forest.