October Nature Walk/Work Party A Success, More Coming Next Year
Mission Accomplished! We extend our profound thanks and appreciation to everyone
who made the day such a success. Check out the slideshow for more pictures and information.
Slideshow: FireWalk and cleanup
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Click again to shrink.
Kirra Swenerton of SF RPD welcomes volunteers.
Kirra and RecPark's Christopher Campbell show San Francisco's natural areas.
On our way to the fire zone.
Kirra helping young naturalists-in-training.
Fire ecology 101.
A circle of native Irises survived the fire thanks to their tough leaves and dense rhisome cluster.
Time to glove up for the cleanup!
Rec Park provided the tools for the cleanup.
Trash begins to pile up.
Big chunks of cement? Check.
Clean City workers did a stellar job cleaning up Visitacion Ave.
Bags of garbage piling up along Visitacion.
Save McLaren Park's Ken finds a treasure trove of garbage in the roadside bushes.
SF RPD's Christopher Campbell shows off his experience at park cleanup.
May organized the wonderful post-cleanup lunch.
We met in the parking lot on the corner of
Visitation Ave. and Mansell. After a preliminary talk to the
volunteers, SF RPD's Kirra Swenerton and Christopher Campbell led a
walk through the fire area. They discussed the different ways native
and non-native plants responded to the fire, and how native plants
were much more adapted to fire survival than the non-natives. We saw
native irises and manzanita that appeared almost untouched by the
flames, and native grasses such as bunchgrass that lost their green
tops but survived just fine thanks to their extensive root
structures. At 10am, we returned to the parking lot and were
outfitted and supplied for the cleanup courtesy SF RPD. Gloves,
bags, pick-up sticks, shovels, and more were available. A quick talk
on what to pick up and what to leave, and we were on our way.
Here's what we got done:
Besides all of that, we had perfect weather, a sumptuous lunch, and smiles all
around! Several of you asked,when will we do it again? We are already discussing
possible future events with Natural Areas staff, and the consensus seems to
be about every quarter, so we are considering January/February for the next
one. We'd love to have your feedback and
- Over 20 folks joined us for the fire ecology walk, including several
families with kids.
- About 30 volunteers joined the work party for about 2 hours, not
including 3 RPD staff, 5 youth workers from SF Clean City, or the lunch
- About 50 bags of trash were collected.
- Several dumping spots were cleaned up, including an amusing assortment
of discarded car parts (spark plugs, radiator cap, wheel hub, oil filters,
etc. ), doll appendages, and matchbox cars.
- An area larger than 500,000 square feet, or about 10 acres, along both
sides of Visitacion Ave and the south side of Mansell were cleaned of refuse
- After lunch, several dozen "seed balls" made by school kids (all seeds
of native wildflowers and bunch grasses found in similar areas of
McLaren) were planted around the burn area. After our first rains we hope to
see a richly rejuvenated southern grassland.
Summer Burn on South Slope Grasslands
In early July, about 25 acres of
the beautiful hills west and south of the Mansell/Visitacion parking
lot burned to a crisp. We suspect fireworks are to blame but have
not heard the official story yet.
All the grasses that blow in the
wind like ocean waves from the fire road up to the paths close to
Mansell are gone. These grasslands provide excellent cover for
Meadowlark and feeding grounds for raptors such as
Kestrel (who occasionally hang out on the power lines along
Visitacion Ave.), as well as a variety of butterflies, bees, and
other fauna. For anyone who frequents these tranquil slopes this is
a sad development indeed.
Nonetheless, occasional summer
fires can actually improve the health of grassland habitats in
McLaren. Deep-rooted natives like
coyote bush and
purple needlegrass (the
California State Grass) tend to survive and even thrive after a
Fire can even increase seed germination in some
species. At the same time, annual grasses such as the predominant
and broadleaf weeds like the Italian Thistle can also take advantage
of a fire’s aftermath and come back even stronger as well -- it’s a
very complex process that depends on many environmental variables
such as season, soil type, weather patterns, and so on.
Decades ago there were
occasional prescribed burns in our natural areas but this practice
has become more or less impossible due to air quality and safety
I grew up
on Wilde Ave. and there were controlled burns
regularly on our side of the hill. The firemen
would let us kids "help" by stomping on the edge of
the burned area in case there were any sparks
lingering. The grass and wildflowers always came
back in the spring.
So yes, things look a bit bleak
now but cheer up -- quite a few plants are already sprouting again,
and we can look forward to a rejuvenated southern slope after our
first rains of the season.