September - October 2010
Sierra Club Yodeler
Vol. 73 No. 5
This November California voters get to make a historic decision: by passing Proposition 21, the California State Parks Initiative, we can keep our state parks open, ending decades of neglect and deferred maintenance and assuring the parks of steady, adequate funding outside the vagaries of the state's dysfunctional budget process. The San Jose Mercury News calls Prop 21 a "brilliant solution". The Sierra Club worked hard to gather signatures to place Prop 21 on the ballot, and it's a top priority for us to pass it in November.
The Bay Chapter is deeply involved in a wide range of other park issues all over the Bay Area. Some of these could be regarded as threats; we prefer to see them as opportunities to make our voices heard as effective defenders of parks and open space.
In Marin the Club is concerned about a decision soon to be made by the Interior Department about Drakes Estero. In 1976 Congress declared that this site was to be protected as wilderness starting in 2012 at the expiration of a commercial lease for oyster-raising, but the new lease-holder has requested a new lease instead. This decision could set a national precedent for the security of wilderness lands, and we are working to make sure that the site becomes wilderness on schedule.
In Richmond a councilmember has proposed a rezoning that threatens the potential for public open space along the North Richmond shoreline. We are speaking out against the rezoning and for the acquisition and protection of these lands by public agencies.
The Oakland Zoo has proposed an expansion that would fence off 56 acres of Knowland Park, the city's largest open space and wildlife habitat. We are urging the zoo to reconsider this plan.
At Franklin Canyon in Hercules we celebrate the culmination of a 20-year effort: the Muir Heritage Land Trust has completed its purchase of the whole canyon and is preparing trails and land-protection measures to open it to the public.
The Club's San Francisco Group is working on a wide range of urban park concerns.
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department's Trails Program is poised to move beyond planning into construction, and we can look forward to improved trails.
The department has released a draft Recreation and Open Space Element. The draft contains high-minded goals, but we must persuade the department to firm up the details.
We are concerned, however, about a long-term trend towards commercialization and reduced public access in San Francisco parks. The mayor has indicated he'd like to see all General Fund support for parks eliminated. The Sierra Club sees parks as a vital public resource that deserves a consistent budgetary commitment, and is concerned about how the public is being shut out of more and more park areas.
At Sharp Park, located in Pacifica but owned by the city of San Francisco, there are conflicts between protection of endangered species and continuing operation of a golf course. The Sierra Club is committed to giving first priority to protecting the endangered species, and then to providing recreational opportunities consistent with that protection. A likely solution would be to annex the land to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
We also include an update on progress and concerns at the San Francisco Presidio, the city's largest national-park site.
The Chapter also works with Sierra Club California to help protect the great wildland national parks all over California. At Death Valley, surely one of the most peaceful and remote of all our parks, federal agencies are working to develop an Air Tour Management Plan to limit plane and helicopter overflights. This could play a crucial role in protecting the peacefulness of the Death Valley experience.
Giant Sequoia National Monument is an anomaly: it is one of the few national monuments managed by the Forest Service. Before it was a monument, the Service allowed extensive clearcutting even in sequoia groves, and its new draft management plan (the previous one was thrown out by the federal courts) still relies on logging. The Club is working both for improvement of the plan, and also to bring the Monument under the management of the Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park, whose management skills have made its sequoia groves the healthiest forests in the Sierra Nevada.
We don't just work to protect the parks, but we also enjoy them.
Public access to our California coast, which includes state parks, a national monument, state and federal wilderness, and a whole patchwork of other public and private landholdings, has long been one of the Club's key concerns, and we conclude with a tribute to Mark Massara, who recently stepped down from heading the Club's California Great Coastal Places Protection Program.
We urge all readers to join us in the campaign for Prop 21 and in the many efforts to protect and improve our parks and public open space. To volunteer in any of these efforts, contact Sierra Club Bay Chapter conservation organizer or call (510) 848-0800, ext. 304