A Tree Story in Mount Sutro Forest

There’d been a couple of really windy days in San Francisco recently, and trees went down all across the city. In Sutro Forest, too, one fell across a trail. We received notice of it from UCSF’s Damon Lew:

“Due to the high winds earlier this week we have been notified of a downed tree in the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.  The tree pictured below has fallen across one of the unnamed trails (between the Historic and South Ridge Trails) impeding passing.  The location of the tree is denoted by the “X” on the map included below and we are hoping to have Bartlett’s Tree Experts onsite this week to remove the fallen tree from this location.  If you happen to be visiting the area please be aware of this hazard and feel free to contact me with any questions.”fallen tree location UCSF letter 9 april 2013

In fact, they had Bartlett there within three days. That’s when we received a message from a someone who had been in the forest and saw at least four trees that had been taken down that had been standing the previous week. “I thought UCSF wasn’t starting this till August,” they asked, “Was I wrong?

tree-noteWe wondered, too, and went into the forest for a look. The downed tree had been sectioned so the trail was passable, but a number of other trees had been cut down too.

Among them was the “Please don’t cut me down” tree we’d seen on a recent walk. It lay beside the trail, no longer a snag but a log.

smiley face tree

We sent an email to UCSF about the trees, and Barbara Bagot-Lopez responded that she’d check with Facilities Management. Later she wrote, “I confirmed that UCSF has not cut down any trees. I believe they have removed the tree that fell and was blocking the trail.”

Not quite, we explained when we wrote back.  “They cut through the fallen tree to open up the trail, which is good. (They’re not actually *removing* the trees.) But they also did cut down some other trees around the fallen tree, so perhaps the information they gave you is not 100% accurate. (See the photographs attached – it wasn’t just the fallen tree.)” And we attached a few photographs, including the one above.

We honestly didn’t expect to hear anything more. But yesterday, we – and everyone on the UCSF listserv – got this message:

“This is a follow-up to the communication below notifying the listserv of an emergency tree removal in the UCSF Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.   On April 10th, Bartlett Tree Experts (Bartlett) was onsite to remove a downed tree that had fallen over on a trail during the April 8th windstorm.  While on the site, a Bartlett employee noticed additional trees in the immediate area that were marked with orange paint.  The marked trees are part of a separate, ongoing maintenance project to identify dead and hazardous trees for possible future action.

“Bartlett independently chose to remove 12 trees, upon determining that their condition could lead to possible failure and pose a safety hazard to trail users. The removal of the additional trees was not authorized by UCSF.  Bartlett subsequently informed UCSF that the 12 trees were all dead, each smaller than 12” in diameter, and several had sustained additional damage by the original fallen tree. 

“Any tree removal performed within the Reserve requires prior written authorization from UCSF Facilities Services, which this did not have.   Bartlett has accepted full responsibility for the unauthorized removal.  UCSF has suspended any further contracts with Bartlett for a period of 90 days, which includes tree-pruning work along Nike Road, for which another contractor is being sought.

 “We will continue to notify the Sutro listserv of future routine maintenance actions taking place within the Reserve.”

So we appreciate that they made the effort to get to the bottom of it.

But wait – was the Nike Rd work supposed to have finished by now? Here’s what they wrote the listserv about that:

I’m writing to inform you that Bartlett’s Tree Experts will be pruning several trees along Nike Road this week beginning on Tuesday, April 16th.   Approximately 14 trees will be pruned along Nike Road (see attached map) as they have branches that are bowing out above Nike Road.  These branches pose a potential safety hazard to those using the road.    The work will be performed from April 16-18 with no noisy work before 9:00 am and after 5:00 pm.   Nike Road will be closed to public access during this time.

And we have to say – we’re a little troubled about the errant tree-felling. It reminded us of another mistake,  one that killed a bee-tree in Glen Canyon Park.  There seems to be an implementation problem in our parks and forests.

Nike Rd

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4 Responses to A Tree Story in Mount Sutro Forest

  1. Tony Holiday says:

    This forest has to be THE best for birds and their songs — and I was cheered to see lots of bees at the summit. But I too saw more downed trees the other day than expected and too many of those orange dots.

  2. Mike says:

    I have no objection to anyone working with UC who is removing *dead* trees. They should be commended for that, not punished.

    [Webmaster: Our impression is that the suspension was more because in a sensitive area like Sutro Forest, it’s important for contractors to be precise in following procedures. UCSF doesn’t seem to object to what was done, but to the fact that they did not get permission in writing as they are supposed to do.

    We’re supportive of removing *hazardous* trees. In fact, we wish they would use the Hort Science three-factor rating system, which, though flawed, is at least an actual rating system rather than just eyeballing it. That system is described HERE.

    Snags – standing dead trees – are an important part of a forest eco-system, valuable to birds, animals, and even other plants (like this one covered in leather fern).]

  3. jay smith says:

    Good lord, do you read your own postings??? They clearly state that the Nike Road pruning work was SUSPENDED because of the unauthorized work performed by Bartlett and another contractor was being sought. And yet your next question after you post this information is, “But wait – was the Nike Rd work supposed to have finished by now?”

    [Webmaster: You’re right, Jay, that is exactly what happened. We were confused because of the timeline – the letter about the tree-felling came well after the finish date for the Nike Rd work. But we checked with UCSF and they confirmed that they did stop work and are looking for a different contractor. It just took a few days for them to let us know.]

  4. Pingback: Sutro Forest June 2013: Trails and Flammability | Save Mount Sutro Forest

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