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

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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.

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Six Degrees of Separation: Nobel Prize, Glen Canyon

Recently, local historian Evelyn Rose gave a slide-show and talk at Glen Canyon about its history (and even prehistory).  One interesting piece involved … why Glen Canyon is connected to the Nobel Prize. (She also wrote a piece about it, some years ago. That’s HERE.)

1. Alfred Nobel, working with nitroglycerin in Sweden, invented Dynamite in the early 1860s.

Alfred Nobel invented dynamite

Alfred Nobel invented dynamite

2. He licensed it to Julius Bandmann of San Francisco, who incorporated the Giant Powder Company in 1867.

giant powder company

The Giant Powder Company was the first US company to make dynamite

3. The factory was built on land leased in Rock Gulch – as Glen Canyon was then known. This was the first American dynamite manufacture. 

... in Glen Canyon.

Glen Canyon Park in San Francisco, where America’s first dynamite factory operated for a year

4.  The Giant Powder Company started manufacture in 1868, months before Nobel was granted patents for dynamite. (However, the factory didn’t last long at that site. It blew up one evening, 15 months later, and was restarted in the sand dunes of the Sunset district.)

Distributing dynamite

Distributing dynamite

5.  Alfred Nobel grew very wealthy from his invention.

Nobel grew very wealthy

Nobel grew very wealthy from his invention

6. He left his fortune for the establishment of the Nobel Prize.

A picture of the Nobel Prize medal

A picture of the Nobel Prize medal

No one knows quite where the factory was, but Evelyn Rose estimates that it was around where the Glen Park Recreation Center is now. At that time, Islais Creek was a rivulet, and carried a lot of water down to the Bay, and cattle grazed the hillsides of  the Gulch.


Evelyn Rose is a San Francisco history buff who maintains the Tramps of San Francisco website and blog.

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Glen Park Rec Center: The Next Phase

Finally, the Glen Park Recreation Center is getting what the neighbors really wanted – a makeover for the old building. We attended a meeting held by SF Rec & Parks’ Capital Planning about this phase of the project. About 30 people came, including Supervisor Scott Wiener.

Glen Canyon Park Rec Center San Francisco

Glen Canyon Park Rec Center, San Francisco – West side


Why the project is needed:

1. The old building doesn’t have a front entrance, and isn’t integrated with its surroundings. The new building will do that: It will have a Significant Front Entrance.

2. It’s a historic building, and it’s old and run down. The bathrooms are on the floor below.

3. The auditorium’s stage has become dead space because it’s not really being used as an auditorium.

4. Needs have changed over the years, and a redesign will make the building more useful.

Karen Mauney Brodek made a slide presentation. That’s available HERE as a PDF: Glen-Canyon-Park-6-13-13-community-meeting-presentation


The San Francisco Forest Alliance made the following comments at the meeting, addressing not addressing the specifics of this plan, but more the process and decisions.

1)  The plans always focus on the building, but not on the trees and vegetation. People care about trees, and they have said their concerns were dismissed during the community process.

2) There’s a need for transparency. In Phase I, all through the community process, we were told that only about 10 trees would be removed. The project description said the project would be only in the recreational area of the Park. Instead, we found out only after the entire community process was over that first, about a third of the project was in the Natural Areas, and second, around 60 trees were being cut down and replaced with native vegetation.

3) There’s a need for cost-effectiveness. People have pointed out that Phase 1 won’t provide recreational values or aesthetic improvements commensurate with the costs. We hope this won’t be as much of an issue in the current project. We also hope that SF RPD actually does keep the Rec Center open; there have been cases where they did a grand renovation and then closed it down. JP Murphy is a poster child for that.


1)  Karen Mauney-Brodek said that there’s only one tree within the project envelope, and that’s being preserved. She said there were no plans to cut down trees for this project.

She left a loophole though; she said the landscaping hadn’t really been decided, and if there were changes, they would update us.

(This is in fact the kind of thing we find troubling: Trees are an afterthought.

Plans for preserving the trees must be built into the initial plans for these projects.)

2)  Scott Wiener said that the capital project people weren’t responsible for keeping the rec center open, but that SF RPD does its best to maintain programming in the face of their shrinking budget.  He also said that the capital projects come in on time and under budget.

(We understand the operational budget issue. But surely, it makes no sense to do a major reno if the club house is closed after that.

As to the under budget and on time part, yes, but that  isn’t quite what we were getting at.  We think that the structure of the first part of the project – the tennis courts, new playground, and Grand Entrance – have given little bang for the buck. Here’s an assessment from past President of SFForest Eric Miller:

“But what else are we getting for our $ millions?

  • Are we actually getting an extra tennis court? No.
  • Are all the tennis enthusiasts satisfied with the orientation of the new courts? No.
  • What about additional facilities – perhaps something like a couple of low-maintenance concrete outdoor racquetball courts – even half a basketball court? No.
  • An inspired design that preserved a few landmark old-growth park trees? Obviously, no.

But RPD did ensure we taxpayers purchased a native plant garden as part of the project and ensured all those pesky mature “non-native” trees were eliminated. I would wager that regular citizens, even those totally ambivalent about park trees, are likely to prioritize other uses for our taxes than fulfilling what amounts to a rather extreme native plant agenda…”

Even the new playground may not be as excellent as hoped – it will be larger, probably safer, but will it have better amenities? We don’t know. The steep staircase and bushes that lined its upper reaches were a magnet for adventure play, and we’re not sure whether the new playground will be merely a blander replica of every other playground in the city.

Meanwhile, the felling of 60 trees, and excavating and shoring up the hillside so the tennis court could be moved to create the Grand Entrance is hugely expensive. However, we are hopeful there will be less waste and bad design in this part of the Plan.)


The rebuilt Rec Center will have an expanded footprint.

  • A multi-purpose  room goes in where the playground used to be.
  • A class-room block is added onto the West side.
  • The auditorium and the gymnasium will be renovated.
  • The stage area will become an “active recreation space” possibly with a climbing wall.
  • A “Teaching Kitchen” will be added.
  • So will some new bathrooms. One set of bathrooms will be accessible from outside even if the Center is closed.
  • A Significant Front Entrance will be created, with a staffed “welcome desk.” This is NOT a receptionist, there’s no budget for one nor is there likely to be. The Plan was vague about who would sit at that desk, though someone said that would be the de facto office of the Director of the Rec Center. (The actual admin offices shown in the plan are for someone else – SFRPD employees of some kind. It wasn’t entirely clear.)
  • The fireplace, which is a historic feature, will be renovated (though not as a wood-burning fireplace) and the chimney stabilized by putting a concrete cylinder inside. There are no cost estimates for this.


The SFRPD essentially sought feedback on two rather similar options. (Clicking on the pictures makes a larger version come up.)

Plan 1

Plan 1 would have the kitchen next to the auditorium. The exterior bathrooms would  be between the new multipurpose room and a steep staircase. Someone pointed out this makes them isolated, not visible from the playground, and thus, potentially unsafe. This was seconded by someone who had taught pre-school, and felt the placement in Plan 2 was safer.

Plan 2, below, has the kitchen in the classroom block. It would have a somewhat larger footprint because the bleachers would be moved to an addition on the north side of the building to accommodate restrooms where the bleachers are now. This would have the disadvantage, someone pointed out, that people would have to walk across the court (and maybe through a game) to reach the bleachers.

Some people proposed a hybrid solution: Keep the bleachers where they are; have the interior toilets where they are in Plan 1; have the kitchen where it is in Plan 2; and the exterior toilets in Plan 2. This would leave the problem of where to put the two offices, but since they don’t seem to be directly associated with the management of the building, perhaps they could go at the end of the Multipurpose Room where the toilets in Plan 1 are.

Plan 2

While we have no problems with the entrance as its been planned (though we wonder about the “welcome desk” ) we do not think that the “entrance” that was created by killing trees to move the tennis courts justified that design. Had SFRPD been willing to accept the input of the many tree-lovers who are still mourning the significant trees removed for a concrete pathway, it would seem a better design could have been developed.

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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.

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A Bushtit’s Nesting Plans in Glen Canyon Park

We are delighted to post this series of pictures by prize-winning wildlife photographer Janet Kessler. They were taken a few days ago in Glen Canyon, where nesting season is in full swing. (We wish SF RPD would take cognizance of this – pesticide applications and removal of thickets and habitat continues.)

I found the tiny little Bushtit — 3.5 inches from tip of the beak to tip of the tail — searching for, finding, and testing building materials for its nest,” she writes. “The materials did not pass muster and were abandoned. Birds have very high standards.” [These pictures have also been posted on the San Francisco Forest Alliance website, HERE.]

0324 bushtit 1

Stringy lichen? Anyway, nesting stuff – maybe

0324 (6) bushtit 2

Gotta run a quality check

0324 (3) bushit 3

Pulling the ball apart

0324 (4) bushtit 4

Hmmm. Maybe it’ll do.

0324 (2) bushtit 5

Get some more

0324 (5) bushtit 6

Still testing -dubious

0324 (7) bushtit 7

Abandoned stuff

0324 (1) bushtit 7

Nah. I don’t think so.

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Glen Canyon Park Update

Well, it’s done. The grove of trees that graced the park’s Elk Road entrance is now a bunch of stumps and mulch. Here’s what it looked like when the cutting had just started, and what it looks like now.

this scene will be gone

the trees are gone

The Rec Center stands forlorn, shorn of all its groves.

this avenue is gone


Former Alms Rd devoid of trees

The same avenue – picture from the opposite side. All the trees in the picture above are gone.

A lady came up as I took some photographs. “It’ll get better,” she said. “It’s a shock, but it’ll get better.”  Well, yes. How could it possibly get worse?

(We don’t know if they’re completely finished. Some of the posted trees still stand, but those are behind the Rec Center Building. We don’t know if they’ve been spared, or there will be a second round of tree-cutting.)


But there is some better news. The gnarly acacia trees that children love to climb – most of those are still there, particularly tree #22. We don’t know if SFRPD has decided to spare them, or if they’ll be cut later. When I went by, a family was playing on the lawn and their little boy – maybe 2 or 3 years old – was trying to climb one. He was little and the tree was big, but he was determined…

number 22 the climbing tree is still there

The owl tree looks promising, and when we went by, there wasn’t much disturbance. Great Horned Owls can tolerate a lot as long as they’re not threatened; after all, this pair have raised their broods where people walk their dogs, and children play. So we are hopeful.

splendid wildflowers

The canyon is just splendid with wildflowers, even prettier now than before. The grass is a brilliant green, the oxalis almost neon yellow, and drifts of mustard a warm gold.

wild mustard flowers

Wild radish interrupts with pink blossoms, and occasional California poppies add orange exclamation points. The eucalyptus is flowering.

It’s bee heaven out there, and I’m pleased to say the last remaining bee tree (of the three that existed only two years ago), seems to be flourishing. I saw a bees coming and going in a peaceful but busy way.

the remaining bee tree

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Golden Spring in Glen Canyon

a study in contrastsAfter so much sad destruction to report, it’s nice to write about the brighter side of Glen Canyon Park.

And is it ever bright! Spring has come again to the upper slopes of Glen Canyon in a blaze of yellow, the bright light color of the oxalis (Bermuda buttercups)  and the mellower darker color of the wild mustard. The flowers bejewel the meadow below the Christopher Playground, contrasting with the darker vista on the other side of the canyon.

wild mustard flowers

The best time to see these flowers is on a bright day. Oxalis furls its flowers like tiny umbrellas  in shade or rain, and we took these pictures in the evening when they had closed for the day. It was still lovely.

oxalis and mustard

The Natural Areas Program dislikes oxalis, and in earlier years, pesticide warnings soon followed the flowers.  “Volunteers” presumably took their cue from that, and there was illegal spraying. We’re glad to see that the area around the rock, pesticide-sprayed by a “volunteer”, seems to have recovered to bloom nonetheless. Also, at least thus far, there are no pesticide warnings.

And did we say “golden”?  It’s not just gold. This cotoneaster was covered in berries so red they almost glowed in the dusk. They attract birds – and paparazzi.

cotoneaster glen canyon

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When the First Glen Canyon Bee Hive was Killed – November 2011

This article is from SaveSutro (republished with permission), about the destruction of the first feral bee hive in October 2011.

This was going to be a post about the San Francisco Natural Areas Program (SF NAP) destroying a hive of feral honeybees in Glen Canyon Park. It still is, but with less anger.

In a tree behind the rec center, about 9 or 10 feet off the ground, a nest of feral honey bees had made their home. It was one of three in Glen Canyon Park, and it was thriving. Here’s what it looked like in April 2011:

Here’s what it looked like after it was destroyed on 15 October 2011. Said the person who sent in the picture, “Note the sad hapless bee trying to get into her hive…”

This nest had been there for a long time, and bee-lovers had been watching it. It was registered with the Feral Bee project.

People were furious. “I have a ladder and drill, who would like to climb it tonight to drill out the foam?” someone posted. (Of course it wasn’t going to work that easily; the colony had likely been poisoned first. The pesticides SF NAP usually uses in these cases is a mix of phenothrin and D-trans Allethrin.)

What happened? everyone wanted to know.

Someone spoke to a Rec and Parks employee about it. He said they were hornets or wasps. He expected the stragglers like the bee up there would find a home elsewhere. He gave no assurances about saving other hives.

The San Francisco Bee-keepers Association wrote to SF NAP.


There was an immediate positive response. Lisa Wayne, Manager of the SF NAP, wrote back to say,

“I am dismayed to hear that a bee hive may have been destroyed in Glen Canyon.  For several years, there have been at least two bee hives in eucalyptus trees in the Canyon.  Many years ago, RPD installed a fence around the one near Silvertree as a way to keep the children and other park patrons away from it and to protect the colony.  I am a beekeeper myself as well as allergic to yellow jackets and wasps and fully understand the difference between these species and docile nature of honey bees.  We do control yellow jackets and wasps in areas near trails and other public facilities.  I am not in favor of, and I don’t believe our Department is in favor of, eradicating honey bee hives.”

That was a good start. Even better, she followed up by actually investigating the incident with the concerned people in her department.

The person who sealed the nest explained what happened. He’d received information that a park visitor had been stung. He contacted her, and she said she had been stung while helping someone else who’d been stung several times. When the Parks employee checked it out, he found the insects flying angrily around the nest.

The nest appeared to be aggressive and moving like hornets at the time of this inspection.  After speaking with the park gardener, the distraught park patron, and performing a site inspection, with the information at hand I made a decision to take action to treat and seal the nest.

At dawn the next morning, he poisoned the nest with an “Eco-exempt product” (from their previous records, wasps and hornet nests are treated with 499, an insect killer – the mixture referred to above), “and sealed the opening with foam sealant and cement.” Since the nest was quiet so early in the morning, he didn’t realize they were honeybees.

He was unpleasantly surprised when he was informed that they were.

“It is not my practice to exterminate or discourage honeybees or other pollinators including wasp and hornets unless they pose a threat to public health and safety.  In this case the persons who where stung felt their safety was in jeopardy.  I did an inspection of the area, getting as close as I could without putting my safety in danger.  It seems that regretfully these were feral bees.  In hindsight and with better information I would have slowed the process down.  In the future if it is not a cut-and-dry wasp nest treatment, I will take more time in the evaluation process.”

He concluded,  “I am disappointed by the results of the incident and will review how I may handle this type of situation in the future…

In her note on the subject, Lisa Wayne said,

As the Manager that oversees the IPM [Integrated Pest Management] Division, I am taking corrective action to reduce the potential of future incidents such as this.  Please be assured that it is not the policy of SFRPD to eradicate honey bee hives; by contrast it is our policy to protect feral hives in situ as much as possible.  If a hive is located in a place where it is perceived to be a health and safety hazard, we will take measures such as signage and fencing first before trying to move the hive.  Our IPM  unit has in the past coordinated with local bee keepers to move hives where access to the queen is possible.  We will continue to take this approach.


For those who watched this nest regularly, its loss is keenly felt, and they regret that SF NAP didn’t spot it sooner and fence it off as they have done with other feral bee colonies in the Park. As the person who sent us this noted, “walking by that tree is always a sad reminder of the hive.”

Still, it’s reassuring to know that the destruction was accidental and that SF NAP is taking steps to prevent a recurrence. This may help to preserve the other nests we know are in Glen Canyon.

We hope SF NAP will be as considerate of other birds and animals whose habitat is being destroyed in Natural Areas with the cutting down and poisoning of thickets and trees.

Another nest of feral bees

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The Bee Tree Was NOT Saved

Sadly, the bee tree was a casualty of the tree destruction that was going on. We had understood that the bee-friends of  San Francisco had talked to the SFRPD, and they agreed that the stump would be cut off at 20 feet, preserving the bee’s nest within its hollow.

That’s not what happened.

bee tree saved

Instead, Scott Mattoon, who had talked to SFRPD when the plans were being made, posted the following comment on our previous post:

Regarding the bee tree stump …
That tree was cut down on Jan. 19.  The agreement with Rec & Park was to cut the tree at 20 feet.   It was cut at 5 feet.  The colony’s nest was more than 5 feet tall from ground to top.  The cut not only penetrated the top of the nest, it also split the trunk and exposed the entire length of the nest.  By Jan. 21, most of the bees had left.  A concerned resident/beekeeper attempted to rescue the queen and her retinue.  We hope her effort will prove successful.   Needless to say, this was a disappointing performance by the city in making good on it’s commitment and partnering with concerned residents who made a good faith effort to find a way to protect this resource.

Edited to add photographs of the destroyed hive, courtesy Scott Mattoon.

red arrow on bee tree (Photo - Scott Mattoon)

destroyed bee tree (Photo credit Scott Mattoon)

exposed hive with bees (Photo- Scott Mattoon)

We’re disappointed too, for many reasons:

1) SFRPD had killed another feral bee hive only last year. There’s a report on that HERE, on the SaveSutro website, that optimistically ends with “Still, it’s reassuring to know that the destruction was accidental and that SF NAP is taking steps to prevent a recurrence. This may help to preserve the other nests we know are in Glen Canyon.”   Really?

2) It makes any kind of assurances from SF RPD difficult to accept. They may be made in good faith, but implementation may be questionable. We wonder, for instance, if the 160 trees-and-shrubs will actually get planted and nurtured to independent viability.

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