We received this letter recently, and publish it here with permission.
I’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.
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.
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.
[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.]