A Hiker’s Letter: Sutro Forest A Midcity Treasure

We received this letter recently, and publish it here with permission.

forest trailI’m a solitary hiker who loves San Francisco’s beautiful parks and am concerned about all the overdone enthusiasm lately for baring our forests so that there will be mostly native plants, as in the drastic deforestation of hundreds to thousands of healthy mature trees.

In these days of confirmed climate change and global warming, I continue to read that more and more experts on the subject are advising that use of pesticides should be reduced and more trees should be planted — instead of doing the exact opposite and destroying hundreds or thousands of perfectly healthy trees, and making this mountaintop practically bald (like nearby Twin Peaks and Tank Hill) — as appears to be the case with the advocates of this destruction.

Sutro Forest just FITS so perfectly; it is a totally unique midcity treasure and people have become used to having it here over many years.

The native plant advocates can plant their natives all over the place without destroying so much of the forest. They can extend trails, trim the ivy, do trailwork, etc. without cutting down all those trees. Why is there such a trend these days to overdo things instead of trying harder to protect our precious, dwindling open spaces.

I’d like to also mention the Presidio Trust as regards its management. When the Trust has projects planned, they TELL people in detail about what is planned, send out explanatory e-letters, answer people’s email inquiries, and even take people on walks to show them what is planned for the particular area, i.e., El Polin Spring before the wood boardwalk was built. The Trust makes an effort to include neighbors and park-goers in discussions instead of seemingly trying to thwart any opposition, or in my case being blocked on Sutro Stewards’ Facebook site for merely asking about their plans.

I merely expressed concern and asked the Stewards at their Facebook site what was going on with all this. I wanted to hear what people in the group had to say. I got an answer after several posts saying only that I was mistaken and not to believe everything I read. So naturally I wanted to ask them to explain their “side” of this, but then found myself to be blocked from further comments. This, to me, is like a parent saying to a kid, “Because I SAY so” and not allowing any further discussion at all to try to shut them up. With me, it has the opposite effect.

I made an attempt to email Craig Dawson [Executive Director of Sutro Stewards] separately but my rebuttal went into “Other” and will likely be ignored. This is no way to get people to think favorably toward a company or group. Instead it tends to make me feel that they do indeed want to block the public from disagreeing or even commenting.

Tree-felling in Glen Canyon, San Francisco

Tree-felling in Glen Canyon, San Francisco

I had the same off-putting experience when I was concerned about the Glen Canyon deforestation recently. I sent an email to a guy hoping he would print it in his blog and that people could comment on it. Instead, he did not print it and just told me I was wrong, again without any further explanation on his part. What IS this — some sort of conspiracy to shut the common folk up if they express disagreement on something?

So how can I help but think, from these recent examples from native-plant enthusiasts, that something fishy is going on here, and that they would prefer not to hear from the “little guys” out there, the people who live in the area and/or who love and use these parks.

Is it because they also have plans to develop the area and don’t want the public to find out until it is too late to stop it? I am thinking about two past instances of neighbors working to get the city to buy open spaces to be used as parks, i.e., Mount Davidson’s summit area and Bernal Heights Park, so that greedy developers couldn’t snap them up to build a bunch of “little boxes” on them. This was successful; hopefully if Mount Sutro is indeed in danger of development, this can be nipped in the bud too.

coastal scrub above Laguna Honda Reservoir

Off-limits coastal scrubland above Laguna Honda Reservoir

I am NOT opposed to common-sense trail maintenance/extensions and taking down trees or other plants that are ailing or dead. In fact, one of the things I’d most like to see and would enthusiastically support would be to open up the no-trespassing-signed areas around here to hikers that are now owned by various city agencies, like the water dept. For instance, the area on the other side of Laguna Honda reservoir where hikers are not supposed to go. That is, GREENING the city more in the process — allowing more trails while still keeping as many of the gorgeous old trees as possible — NOT doing the exact opposite! Natives are fine, but let’s not get so carried away and destroy all those healthy trees in your enthusiasm. Again, more common sense is needed in these days of concern for global warming and the environment. I am especially concerned about the rampant use of pesticides. LESS poisons, not more!

In summary, I am an ordinary animal/nature-lover, treehugger, and hiker who has enjoyed hiking Mount Sutro for many years, back before all the trailwork was begun, who wants to see protection for the area from development, destruction of animal habitats, use of poisons to kill the plants, and the massive, shocking deforestation causing multiple bare spots atop the mountain — thus causing lots of environmental problems as well. I want to see common sense prevail, and that neighbors and concerned citizens might have just as much a say in this very serious matter as the owners of the land, the overly enthusiastic native plant advocates, and Rec & Park have. I think we deserve this. We live here too.

Let our beloved forest live on and stop this unbelievably nasty trend of excessive tree removal from this and all San Francisco’s parks for no good reason. Let ordinary people speak up and force the rich landowners and some seemingly misguided native-plant people out there to let the public know what they are up to, and prevent destruction of our plants and animals in the name of “progress” or whatever they choose to call this horror nowadays.

Tony Holiday
San Francisco

website: http://galomorro.weebly.com

[Webmaster: Thank you for the letter, Tony, and for supporting this beautiful forest. In fairness, while UCSF   have not been as responsive to our concerns as we had hoped, they have held a number of hearings in 2009 and 2010 – you will find reports on this website.]

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5 Responses to A Hiker’s Letter: Sutro Forest A Midcity Treasure

  1. Sutro Resident says:

    Re the UCSF hearings – honestly though I don’t give them credit for what really seems to be empty gestures. UCSF has not demonstrated any real regard for people’s valid points and concerns not to mention the many birds, bats, insects etc that live in and rely on this forest.

    In the end it really looks like they are set on destroying this successful environment to free up the area for yet more development. There is no doubt they have their less then transparent reasons to want to destroy an historic and thriving ecosystem, allow the use of pervasive toxic pesticides/herbicides, leave a windy poisoned hill without any concerns for the impacts on wildlife and people

  2. harry says:

    The “nativists” have become merely the drones of chemical companies like Monsanto and Dow. Some of them still think they’re environmentalists, despite the evidence, the rest are complicit. Why UCSF is involved with this horrible movement is a big mystery, that one day will be revealed.

    Tony, your letter is right on the money. Thank you.

  3. gina hall says:

    I happily buy a paper bag for ten cents to carry my groceries. UC Med wants to destroy a thriving forest? Something’s so wrong with this picture

  4. west says:

    Webmaster: Interesting suggestion below. As always, we are open to discussions of all viewpoints here, so if Craig Dawson or anyone else would like write an essay in support, we would be happy to put it here.

    Tony, Why not sign up to help Sutro Stewards with their volunteer project this month (look at their site for the date.) You’ll be working right alongside Craig Dawson. Perhaps some questions could be carefully, privately asked to him directly, in a gentle way. And if you can listen without making snap judgments on his responses, all the better. The most effective debate points for the final hearing will come from the most equipped one is with the true scope of the intent of the project and a better understanding of the people involved with it. That may mean just experiencing their world for a day (putting yourself in their shoes) but this is what I’m going to try to do.

    February 16
    February 16, 2013 from 9am to 12:30pm – UCSF Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, San Francisco
    We’ll be working at the Sutro Nursery and at Rotary Meadow where we recently planted hundreds of native plants. Tasks include transplanting, planting, weeding and irrigation work. We’ll provide food…
    Organized by Craig Dawson | Type: environmental, stewardship, plant, propagation, and, nursery, program

  5. Pingback: Sutro Stewards: The Good, The Bad, and the… ??? | Save Mount Sutro Forest

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