Dec 11, 2010

Brown conical mushrooms sprout yesterday in the park under a cherry laurel

The large cherry laurel just east of Masonic is a real survivor. Our park has quite a few laurels, but none like this. From time to time, people leave trash in there and cut into or gouge the trunk with metal and glass. When I visited the park yesterday, I saw that one of its large branches was pulled down to the ground and the branch was cracked. That was hard to see. 

It cheered me up to turn around and find mushrooms sprouting from wood chips we spread around the tree in February

Dec 4, 2010

Panhandle Project Selected for Implementation

Ready for change?

Great news yesterday: Our proposal for capital improvements in the area between the playground and basketball courts has been selected for implementation!

The plan repairs a key area in our big neighborhood park while leaving the current design intact. It will fix broken pathways between the playground and basketball courts, replace degraded turf while modernizing irrigation and drainage, and place small-stature, moisture-loving native plants in a small area. It will also build a seating wall positioned close to the basketball courts, and installs bike racks. To protect the area from harmful impact of heavy vehicles, it re-routes service vehicles to get them in and out of the park more sensibly. And it builds a walkable wood-chip path to improve access to the Kevin Collins Children's Garden surrounding the playground.
Project overview. Drawing by Holly Kuljian

SF Rec and Park Department will get this work underway soon - hopefully in the first months of 2011. We have an immediate opportunity to ensure the project is fully realized -

- park outreach to let even more park users know about the project
- visit neighborhood associations and tell them about the project
- become acquainted with the work team and document the project through photos and videos
- organize the day when neighbors will take part in planting as part of our volunteer match
- learn more about the plants chosen and lead tours of the project
- organize a park celebration - before and after project
- propose creative reuses for any materials being removed from the park
- make a financial contribution to help us reach our match

We'll need lots of help to make these things happen. Looking forward to working with you on this in 2011!
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Nov 27, 2010

Park reflections

The Panhandle isn't supposed to have a reflecting pool, but today between rain showers, the puddles at Panhandle central offered a way to view the tall trees looking down instead of up. A long standing maintenance problem, the poor drainage in the vicinity of the playground would finally be addressed if our proposal is selected for implementation. Stay tuned for news soon -- and tune in to the Dec 2 meeting of the Rec and Park Commission.
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Nov 14, 2010

November Work Day wrap up

At yesterday's Panhandle work day, regular volunteers joined with students and parents from SF Day School to take care of our neighborhood park. 

I was happy to have many volunteers, because the weather was awesome and it was our last work day of the year. We had an enormous pile of compost soil to spread out in the redwoods at the southeast corner of the park.  It was definitely not manure, and smelled like fresh ground cypress. This project in the redwoods followed up last month's work day, when we cut back the young redwood shoots growing thickly from the burls of the large redwood trunks. By spreading nourishing soil in this area, we were giving the redwoods the nourishment they might not otherwise get from the sandy soil found throughout the park. 

Shoveling is hard work, but we enjoyed working in the shade of the trees, and getting some fresh air and exercise to begin the weekend. 

Other work that we got to do was removal of mud and weeds from  the crossover path connecting Lyon St, and some trash pickup behind the McKinley Monument. I heard that several socks were found. 

We found conclusively that fifth graders are big enough to maneuver a wheelbarrow across the lawn. Thanks everyone! 
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Nov 10, 2010

Last work day of 2010 this weekend...

Panhandle Work Day: Saturday, Nov. 13

For all of you who enjoy rolling up your sleeves and getting to work raking, shoveling, and digging, note that the second Saturday of November is fast approaching. The Panhandle Park Stewards will be out in the Panhandle for our monthly work day this Saturday, Nov. 13, starting at 9 am and going until 11 or 11:30 am. Since we're taking off for the month of December, this is our last work day of the year.

Meet up with us at the Bulletin Board (near the playground), where we'll discuss the days projects, gather tools and proceed to our worksite, which is likely in the east end of the park this month. Wear sturdy shoes and if you want, bring your own gloves, though gloves are typically available. The current five day forecast is for Saturday to be sunny and warm.

PPS named SF's Outstanding Park Volunteer Group!

We've just learned that we have been named "Outstanding Park Volunteer Group" by the Neighborhood Empowerment Network! Thank you to those who nominated us and supported us in gaining this recognition. This award recognizes our successful, hands-on efforts to improve the Panhandle through showing up for work days, meeting with city officials, writing proposals, and sending in 311 reports. It also gives us a chance to get the word out to even more people in the community about ways we can come together and enhance our park.

A special event to celebrate the 2010 NEN awards is coming up in just one week: Weds, Nov. 17, at 6 pm, in the North Light Court of City Hall. Find more details and sign up for free tickets here. And here's a look at last year's awards, to give you a feeling for what an exciting and wide-ranging, only in San Francisco, event it will be!

NEN Awards 2009 from NENtv on Vimeo.

Nov 7, 2010

Sunday morning rain

This morning's heavy rain created some huge puddles in the Panhandle this morning, like this one connecting Lyon Street.
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Oct 13, 2010

October Work day wrap up

The redwoods clustered near Oak and Baker, with their massive trunks, cast deep shadows on the Panhandle's south path. The darkness and boggy conditions here have made this the spookiest corner of the Panhandle, making it a fitting site for our October work day. And since it was a hot day it was a relief to work in the shade.

Redwoods sprout new trunks from burls, which are located around their trunk collar. Sprouts tend to emerge from burls when trees are burned or harmed - and these redwoods had thick clusters of sprouts, some growing several feet tall. Because the thick growth impeded views into and out of the park, volunteers were asked to lend a hand cutting it back. Working on this was our way of making the Panhandle more accessible to everyone in the community by increasing visibility and a feeling of security.  

SFPD was out in the park Saturday morning, using their motorbikes. They checked in with us a couple of times and let us know about the enforcement they were conducting in the park, such as drinking alcohol.  
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Oct 12, 2010

"Connecting the City" proposes a fix for Panhandle Path friction

 Today's bulletin from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition announces a Treehouse Talk that Panhandle Park users should note:
The SF Bicycle Coalition's 2010 Fall Tube Times newsletter is hot off the presses. The cover story showcases our boldest initiative to date:Connecting the City. Read the story and ogle the renderings showing our designs for bikeways that are physically separated from vehicles to the fullest extent possible. Download the Tube Times today....

Get a sneak peek at what Connecting the City has in store at our Treehouse Talk tonight, Tuesday October 12th, 6:30 pm, at the SF Bicycle Coalition Office, 833 Market Street, 10th Floor. Free to SF Bicycle Coalition members (a $5 donation from non-members is appreciated); bring your bike upstairs.
The Fell St space in question (on street cleaning day)
The first route up in Connecting the City is "Bay to the Beach," and that one includes the Panhandle. You can find in the newsletter a specific suggestion for transforming Fell and Oak Streets between Scott and Golden Gate Park (the majority of that stretch is alongside the Panhandle). The vision is to "move car parking 10 feet away from the curb and use this new space as a buffered, protected bikeway for faster bike traffic." That change would give a safe commuting route "while improving the walking experience on the Panhandle mixed use path."

Friction between the growing numbers of people cycling and walking on the multi-use path was the top complaint I have heard from park neighbors. In July, I wrote about the problem and suggested approaches to fixing it so that we have a park more suitable to today's needs. I'm not able to attend tonight's SFBC talk, but I hope some of you will be able to go to learn about the proposal and raise up any Panhandle issues that need to be addressed. 

Sep 27, 2010

Vote for the Panhandle! Best of Parks Poll going on now

Support your neighborhood park by clicking through to the Best of Parks Poll. The Panhandle's nominated for Best Park for a Picnic! We're currently trailing behind Dolores Park - but every vote shows support.

You will be asked for name and email address, and I'm sure the folks at Neighborhood Parks Council will treat you right.

Sep 23, 2010

Sunday Streets @ the Panhandle

This past Sunday was the Western Addition's first time to play host to Sunday Streets. At Central Avenue, people enjoying the open streets flowed in and out of the park. The meadows were full of people and pets, dogs looking for adoptive families, free bike repair, and healthy food samples.

Sep 12, 2010


It makes me nervous just to think of driving an R.V. in San Francisco. Living in one in the middle of the city - well, that would be one way of beating the high rents. But it's not allowed between 10 am and 6 pm, and can result in $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail. 

Still, one R.V. that we've become familiar with this summer is the land yacht sporting RawVgan California plates. It has spent so much time on Baker that it earned a spot on the recent Google Maps update.

Oh wait - not just one spot, but here it is again when Google's camera traveled down Oak!
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Sep 11, 2010

Sept Work Day wrap-up

Thanks to all for coming out and joining the fun in the Panhandle Park this morning. 

As promised, the hedge-clippers were brought out for this huge monster shrub, a species from Chiapas.

New plants went into a few of the beds on the eastern end, north side. How cute are they? 

And speaking of cute, here's a bike party we found back on the west end near Masonic. This party serves as a great reminder about why to keep this nice space open and unobstructed! 
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Sep 10, 2010

Workday Tomorrow! 9/11 @ 9 am

Remember the green grass of February?

Tomorrow morning we begin at our usual place, the Playground/Bulletin Board, then travel down to the east end. We'll be working with the gardener on some first aid for the area around the McKinley Monument. Increased use of the park by picnicers and partiers does have impacts!

Our efforts will prepare the park for the influx of visitors expected from the next Sunday Streets. I hear we get to brandish clippers against a few of the decorative shrubs crowding our multi-use path. (The NE area is probably the parks most bio-diverse zone). 

Around 11 am, we head back to put away tools. A discussion about the community proposal for Panhandle capital improvements will follow and should be concluded by noon.
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Back to the Source

Enjoy your parks this lovely summer afternoon.
Visit the Music Concourse to welcome back the fountains!
(Fountain: from the Latin "fons" or "fontis", a source or spring)

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Sep 6, 2010

Labor Day in the Park

On Labor Day, what better way to celebrate your work than with a day of rest in the neighborhood park? 

In the west end, the Panhandle this afternoon was bounce-housey, and skate park-ey. 

Meanwhile, east of Masonic, the open meadows beckoned for picnicking with friends in the shade of the cypress and laurel. 

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Aug 18, 2010

August work day wrap-up

THANKS to the neighbors who came out Saturday morning to work with Guillermo in the Panhandle. We joined together to tend to the children's garden around the playground. After raking eucalyptus leaves out of the flower beds, we also trimmed shrubs growing along the fence, so people can better see in and out. Participation was down this month - could it be that folks are taking their summer vacations and trying to get away from the San Francisco's summer fog?

Nearby, fresh stripes had been painted on the basketball courts and an intense 3-on-3 tournament was getting underway. For 1on-1 basketball action, come to the Panhandle basketball courts on Saturday, August 28 for the Red Bull King of the Rock qualifying round. Winners from the Panhandle courts will face off with qualifiers from around the country for a $10,000 prize on Alcatraz in September, in what is said to be the first sporting event on Alcatraz since the inmates left 50 years ago. 

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Jul 26, 2010

Nopa Velo rides to the tall trees of the Panhandle

photo: Michael Helquist
Nopa Velo, our neighborhood cycling group, brought riders to the west end of the Panhandle on Sunday morning, where I told the group about Elizabeth McClintock and her contributions to the history of the Panhandle Park and the trees of Golden Gate Park. We continued on to the Presidio, and back to the 'hood for a backyard brunch.

Jul 24, 2010

Park inhabitants

The east end of the Panhandle near Baker is a place to see small flying creatures. Around the McKinley Monument this summer, dozens of damselflies fly about on the hunt for smaller insects. Near the Redwoods on the south path, this West Coast Painted Lady was getting some sun.

Every time I crossed the west end of the Panhandle this month, I seemed to hear the screams of a red-tailed hawk. Today I finally spotted him in the branches of this Silver Maple.
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Jul 23, 2010

Get stuff fixed

Some appreciation for the work of the folks at 311. 

And a reminder not to get used to disfunction. 
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Cycling in the Panhandle: We (all) need a better path

When I talk with neighbors and park users, the most common complaint I hear is that the Panhandle's north path is no longer fun or safe. There are more cyclists than the path can handle, some cyclists and walkers are inconsiderate or oblivious to others, and there's no room for people to walk, especially when they have strollers and pets.

The most recent renovation of the multi-use path - completed by SF Rec and Park about six years ago - was a major accomplishment. Besides a new, smooth surface and a slight path widening, the upgrade also added lighting, and the benches and trash barrels were set back from the path. Since then, additional improvements such as the Fell Street bike lane, the rebuilding of the median on Kezar at Stanyan, the "Shrader valve" bike light, curb ramps at most entrances, and the dedicated crossing phase at Masonic, have gradually created a better experience for cycling to and from the Panhandle. When you combine all these gradual changes with the huge increase in cycling citywide, and the surge in neighbors enjoying their park, we've reached a tipping point, where the north path is no longer up to the demands we're putting on it. The crowding, the yelling, and infrequent, but serious collisions show that need a re-thinking of how the Panhandle paths are designed, and how they connect to the cycling routes in the city.

Ideas are bubbling up from neighbors, and I'll suggest three guiding principles for figuring out the best way forward:

1. Just like you treat the "whole patient," we need to treat the whole park. It would be a mistake to renovate one path and leave others to crumble. And before we start digging anything up, we need to figure out key issues like irrigation and drainage. Let's think about how the paths are affected by both natural processes (such as sunlight, runoff, soil quality, tree health) and human processes (the cars and trucks of SFPD, Rec and Park). This kind of thinking is needed to create long-lasting, attractive paths that don't have an adverse impact on the environment.

2. We should attain all reasonable standards for designing multi-use pathways. An excellent pathway meets a bunch of standards for width, grade, surface quality, materials. Its design nudges people in the right direction to share the path in a way that's safe and considerate to others. It accommodates diverse users, including disabled people. Because our park's path is in a special setting - in particular, a grove of mature trees with historical significance - some of the standards may not be attainable - for example, having a lot of clearance on each side.

3. Plan for increases in cycling. More and more local residents are finding a way to bicycle on a routine basis. And visitors are also hopping on bikes. The Panhandle is part of a major cross-town bike route, and it's the gateway to Golden Gate Park. We need to think about the future.

Fell Street Solution? 
Fell Street on street cleaning day

One idea bouncing around in the cycling community is to add a two-way bike lane on the south side of Fell Street by moving the parking lane over. Fell Street currently has 4 lanes of moving car traffic next to the Panhandle - one more than it has east of the Panhandle. By separating the bike lane from moving traffic, we could make a safer, more comfortable riding area that would appeal to a broad range of cyclists. Or, the two way bike lane could be applied on the Oak Street side.

Do we need a bike lane and a multi-use path? It may be the only way to satisfy current demands and to plan for increases in cycling. And we can find local examples as close as The Presidio.

Options in the Presidio: traffic lane, bike lane, buffer, multi-use path

Still hard to imagine? Check this video, which shows a new, separated two way bike lane in downtown Vancouver. The 3-D animations may help people visualize how the space adjacent to the park could be converted to different use, while paying attention to everyone's needs.