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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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.

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