Canyon Disappointments – by Tony Holiday

Tony Holiday is a trekker and blogger based in San Francisco. He recently re-visited Glen Canyon, and was disappointed with the destruction he saw there. This post is re-published (with minor edits) from his blog, Stairways are Heaven . Visit his blog for more pictures, and more trails reports from all over San Francisco. (An earlier trek through Glen Canyon – before most of the destruction along the trail – is described HERE.)

Thirty-six steps descend into Glen Canyon Park from Elk, the route recently taken for a south-to-north hike. The lower south part of the park is bare and depressing to look at with all that ongoing construction. Workers were also doing something up at the side of the guardrail where Diamond Heights Blvd. starts near Berkeley Way.

Disappointed to see that one of the big old trees on the main trail is now a stump. This is near a short set of wood steps leading up to one of the eastside trails. There are stumps and huge logs laying around.

Main trail, southeast side – stump

When one has grown used to the certain look of a uniquely wild park over many years, it’s difficult to get used to when people who should know better go to such extremes with their version of “park improvements.” Tree limbs have been chopped off all the way along the lower trail as one moves south to north.

“My” beloved northeast trail has seen some clearing too since I last visited. Now it’s easier (a bit too easy!) to navigate the lower trails. I liked it when it was overgrown and “hidden” and I had to crawl under tangles and branches to get to it. I’m now, however, able to look down at Islais Creek from this side of the trail.

Northeast trail – now see-through

Changed my mind a while back about thinking it’d be cool if this trail could be cleared out to Portola (and thus up to Twin Peaks Blvd. and into that park as a continuation) because those in charge don’t seem to know when to quit.

Was naively hoping for minimal clearing, no tree-felling, and a pedestrian skyway over busy Portola (yeah, right), as in just enough space for hikers to navigate without being chewed up alive by brambles, but hopefully leaving the across-the-trail tree limbs alone.

Instead of concentrating on eliminating trees alongside the trail, why not construct more skyways across curvy, dangerous-to-cross streets like O’Shaughnessy, Clarendon, and Portola, to name a few, so one can move easily and safely from one greenspace to another. They’re spending taxpayers’ money on the wrong things.

Thought they did a good job with the new Twin Peaks trail up from Portola, but so far am not impressed with the so-called “improvements” in the lower Canyon. Alongside the extended stairway on the south side of the popular climbing rocks (ascends from the lower trail near the fence and boardwalk), there’s still that ugleee black fencing. Take it down already!

Greenery – and ugly black fencing

The picture below is the newer stairway on the north side of these rocks; love this one.

New staircase

At least now there are still some tree limbs to climb over on the extreme northside trail, but who knows how long this’ll last. Wish they’d stop trying to eliminate the remaining bits of wildness in our urban parks. Canyons are supposed to be “wild.”

After viewing the mess they’ve made so far, I now hope this north end stays tangled and up-and-back after all, and I’m sure the resident wildlife will back me up on this. And not every trail on earth needs to be bike-friendly. The trail still, fortunately, doesn’t go much past the school playing field gate.

School playing field gate

Noticed a pile of old clothes and an old chair in the area this time. A campsite back there too?

Chair in Glen Canyon

Both northernmost trailheads are easier to see now (pic 10) from the trail above.


Out of the park climbing to the shopping center, first up 13 steps to Turquoise Way (no street sign seen when you get to this first Diamond Heights street).

Out of the canyon into the Diamond Heights ‘hood

The stairway continues directly across the street to Amber: 65 steps total to this second street up from the Canyon, pic 12.


At Amber it’s a short walk (right turn), maybe a couple of blocks, to the next stairway up, Coralino (132 steps), that ascends to Cameo. Coralino is unnamed on the street but named and shown on Google Maps (maps).

Coralino to Cameo, 132 steps

Up Cameo to Duncan and the Little Red Hen community garden (last pic) at the Police Academy. The next street is Diamond Heights Blvd. (right turn) for the Diamond Heights Shopping Center and Christopher Park.

The Little Red Hen Community Garden, Diamond Heights, San Francisco

The Little Red Hen Community Garden, Diamond Heights


Glen Canyon Park: Nine Months after Tree Destruction

This article has been reprinted from the San Francisco Forest Alliance’s website.

Video update to the Glen Canyon Park tree demolition project

All these trees are gone

This tree is gone – the entire area is now bare ground. Click to see the 9-month update video.

San Francisco’s Wreck and Park Department is now calling this “The Glen Canyon Playground and Tennis Court Project“. This is only a continuation of the mis-information that have been provided as the Glen Canyon Park Improvement Plan (note: they are spending $5,800,000 of the 2008 Park Bond Fund for Glen Canyon “renovations”).

You will be seeing in this new video a bit more than just preparations for a new playground and 2 new tennis courts. The damage to Glen Canyon Park by the city is significant; we thought the project was the “removal and pruning of select trees”, but it is much more than that. And the wonderful children’s climbing tree is now gone; it once stood behind the Rec Center.

screen cap from Glen Park 9-month video

But San Francisco’s Rec & Park Department cuts down healthy and treasured trees.

Here is a reminder [Beginning of Glen Canyon Park tree destruction] of what was once there. On January 10, 2013 we reported on the start of this demolition project by the city. The grand eucalyptus trees at the Elk Rd entrance, over a century old, were quickly destroyed. Hundreds of other trees in the canyon, the ones the children love and climb in, the ones the birds nest in and bats hide in, the ones that feed the and protect the wildlife of this canyon – all will be gone by the time this project is completed next year.


Last chance: See Glen Canyon’s Outback Trail before it’s Tamed

If you love the secret, twisty mysterious Outback Trail that runs along the west side of the creek in Glen Canyon, this would be a good time to see it. The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department is just about to start improving it, to make it the lower end of the “Creeks to Peaks” trail that will go up to Twin Peaks. It’s going to be a lot less adventurous experience – more like the existing trail on the other side of the creek. A lot of the branches that have to be climbed over or ducked under will be gone.

We think it’s a bit like widening and paving a narrow country road to make a 2-lane highway; it’ll be easier to use but a lot less charming.

For a story from the Glen Park News, which supports the changes, detailing what’s planned over the next 15 months, click HERE. (They call it, for some reason, the ‘Banana Slug Trail’ though we’ve always heard it called the Outback Trail or the Secret Trail.)

In brief:

  • Some 32 trees will be removed, including many of the twisty willows.
  • The trail will be regraded and compacted.
  • Retaining walls will be added on both sides of the trail (steel posts, plank walls)
  • A bridge across the creek, with concrete pylons, and railings.


We went by there at dusk recently. A lot of undergrowth has been cleared since we first visited it perhaps three years ago, making it much more exposed than before. Nevertheless,  it was magical.

through low tree tunnels

Trees arched right over the trail, which wound beside the creek. In some places, they looked almost like a maze.

spiral grove

This is the Darlene Tree; someone inscribed the name of their beloved on it.

daphne tree

twisty tree

This one’s called the Whomping Willow (Harry Potter fans will get the reference!). Sadly, it may be under threat of removal. SFRPD will try “heavy pruning” first. That probably means most of the trunks and branches will be gone even if some of the tree is left.

whomping willow

whomping willow sign

This is the Rainbow Tree, and it’s being removed.

rainbow tree

rainbow tree sign

This is the beam crossing the creek. It’s going to be replaced with a bridge with concrete pylons and a boardwalk.

beam bridge over the creek


Back in January 2012, when the San Francisco Forest Alliance first learned of the plan to remove nearly all the willows, we created a map of the trail and trees in an effort to save them. We think that SFRPD is actually trying to preserve some of these trees, though without the horizontal branches that give the path its character. In response to a query, Karen Mauney-Brodek said, “Please also note that we are attempting to prune rather than remove trees whenever possible and will have our contractor retain a taller than usual trunk for the “ticket tree” unless trunk decay is determined to be a hazard to children and trail users.”

The beloved quirky trees of Glen Canyon Park

Glen Canyon Trails Project : 31 Trees Will be Cut in September

SF Recreation and Parks Department is stepping up the Trails project in Glen Canyon.

Glen Canyon Trails Project

By the time you read this, they may already have posted notices for removal of 31 trees that they say have been assessed as “Hazardous.” The trees can be removed any time from September 16, 2013.  If they follow the map above, the hidden trail with the twisty willow trees on the west side of the creek will be a wide path possibly with bicycle access.

Here, in part, is the letter they sent out to their list:

We will be presenting a contract to the Rec and Park Commission Capital Committee on September 4 for approval of award and plan to mobilize soon after full Commission on September 16 pending approval.Tomorrow, August 16, we will be posting 31 trees adjacent to the trails that have been assessed as hazardous and are slated for removal.

We are moving forward with posting trees as we would like for hazardous tree mitigation to be done before the end of the year to avoid disruption to nesting birds.

Please see attached for a sample of the tree removal notices that we’ll be posting.For more information and details, please visit the project page of our website.

Please contact me at any time with questions or suggestions.


Melinda Stockmann, Assistant Project Manager/ Community Gardens Program Manager

San Francisco Recreation & Park Department  | Capital Improvement DivisionCity & County of San Francisco  | 30 Van Ness Avenue, 5th FloorSan Francisco, CA 94102(415) 581.2548  |

The Following Message will be Posted on Trees to be Removed:
Glen Canyon Trails Improvement Project

Posting Date: 8/16/13

Notice of Tree Removal

This tree has been assessed as hazardous as part of the upcoming Trails Improvement Project at Glen Canyon Park, and is slated to be removed.   The project was vetted extensively through the community and includes trailside restoration planting.

For more information about the Glen Canyon Trails Improvement Project and the removal of hazardous trees, please visit our website at http : / / / project /glen-canyon-urban-trails-project /

and/or contact Project Manager Melinda Stockmann at 415-581-2548
Removal will not take place before September 16, 2013.

glen canyon park - how many of these trees will live

Glen Canyon Park: What It Looks Like 6 Months After the Trees

It’s been over six months since the trees were felled between Elk Rd and the Glen Canyon Rec Center.  Here’s what it looks like now.


The destruction part took no time at all: An avenue of majestic century-old trees, a hillside habitat for birds and animals – including insect-eating bats –  a wild bee-colony,  Those were all gone in days.

The construction part is harder.

Glen Canyon Trees – Why We Should Have Saved Them, and Where It’s At Now

We’re bringing you two videos that together will take under ten minutes of your time: One made some months ago, when the trees in the picture still dappled the hillside with their shadows; and a recent one that follows up on what’s going on there now.


The first 5-minute video is a wonderful talk from Alma Hecht, Certified Arborist. She gave it at an SF Forest Alliance meeting before the Elk Street entrance trees were cut down. She addresses the issues of why it’s important to preserve trees – and “poor suitability” is not a reason to cut them down unless they are hazardous.

Doomed trees in Glen Canyon Park

Click on the picture to go to the video


And now, the trees are all gone and the hillside is being excavated.

Check out this 3-minute video to see the Glen Canyon project at 3 months – and understand why it’s so expensive. What’s $5.4 mn going to buy us?

Machinery of tree-removal

Click on the picture to go to Month 3 of the Glen Park Demolition

The kids who play in the park today will grow up to pay off the Bonds that financed this demolition.

This tree is to be felled

This tree-felling is just the beginning. If you love the canyon as it is, now is the time to speak up.

Still More Trees Going Down in Glen Canyon

We’re continuing to document the work at the Elk Street entrance of Glen Canyon. Here are some recent pictures. It looks like what it was – a logged worksite where lately there were trees and bushes. We hope the realigned tennis court, the new playground, and the grand new entrance with native plants will be worth it.

logged slope

These are some pictures of the logged slope around Alm Rd.

logged slope 2

trees into trash
Most of the trees around the Recreation Center are gone now.

trees into trash 2

Here, below is the stump of the bee tree. Since we can’t go in there, we don’t know if the bees stayed. We hope they did. [Edited to add: They didn’t. HERE’s the story.]

bee tree saved

But the greenery, the bushes you can see lower down in the picture between the road and the Rec Center? They all bear the white labels of doom. They’ll be gone, too, soon enough.

where the eucalyptus was

It looks bare from the road; there’s chain-link fence all around. A banner proclaims that SFRPD will plant 160 trees, even though that’s not exactly true: at least a quarter of the plantings will be shrubs. And the “trees” will be saplings – it will be take decades before they’re grown into anything like the majestic trees they’re supposed to replace.

chain link and banner

Will Glen Canyon’s famous Great Horned Owl pair nest here this year? We don’t know. The season would be around now. We’ll post what we hear.


You can find a link to a video, HERE.  It’s Glen Canyon Park Demolition Project: Weeks 3 and 4  by neighbor Ron Proctor.  He has been documenting the project in photos and video.