Mar 26, 2010

Last weekend in March

It's the last weekend in March. We're going to have beautiful spring weather, so why not catch some park stewardship/habitat restoration on Saturday, at one of the dozens of projects happening around the Bay Area. Then, on Sunday, join NoPa Velo for a neighborhood bike ride on Sunday!

Coming up in just two weeks is our next Panhandle Park Second Saturday Work Day. Send me an email with your suggestions about what we need to work on!

In bloom near the basketball courts

Leafing out on the west end of the park
Posted by Picasa

Mar 21, 2010

It's Spring!

Spring started with a bang and with warm, sunny weather leading up to yesterday's vernal equinox. Here are some park developments of the past week:

First shave of the year: mowing the grass. Watering, too: it's drying out fast

More maintenance by park staff on the multi-use path. THANK YOU!

New plantings, by and courtesy of the Belvedere School, at the Children's Garden around the playground
Posted by Picasa

Mar 14, 2010

Know a cheesewood when you see one

Our work in the Panhandle yesterday centered on a thicket of trees, and with the help of McClintock's book, I identify them as pittosporum, a.k.a. cheesewoods. These trees aren't instantly all that impressive, but on closer inspection, their flowers are unique and beautiful. And they are one of the more common trees in the Panhandle - I spotted them all over today once I knew what to look for.

Different species of cheesewood produce different color flowers. Here are two of the different flowers in bloom today. Watch for thicker blooms on the cheesewoods in the Panhandle this spring and summer. And search Flickr for Cheesewood or Pittosporum for better pictures, including shots of the gooey seeds that erupt from pittosporum fruits in the summer. 
 Posted by Picasa

Mar 13, 2010

March vernation of our Aesculus

While many trees in the Panhandle still have their winter form (above), others are quickly leafing out. Below is the vernation (fun new word) of the leaves on the grand old tree between Shrader and Cole - I believe its genus Aesculus, of which several species, including this, are called Horse Chestnuts. Same genus as the much-loved species California Buckeye.

Posted by Picasa

March Panhandle work day - wrap up and photos.

Today's Panhandle work day had a big job to do: helping a grove of trees between Lyon and Central, near Oak. These big piles needed to be spread to help nourish and protect the trees. Fortunately, our group of volunteers was reinforced by folks from Asian American Recovery Services and Larkin Street Youth Services. Working with pitchforks, wheelbarrows, and rakes, they had the soil spread by the end of the morning. 

Larkin Street volunteers with me (left) and Guillermo (front right)

Neighborhood volunteers, meanwhile, tackled a persistent Panhandle problem: keeping our multi-use path clear of mud and grass. Armed with shovels, we sliced through the muck and scooped it up and off the path. This job felt even more tiring than spreading mulch, but seeing the results, and getting some thanks from some passing cyclists and runners was gratifying. 

Panhandle neighbors next to our spiffed up path

It's Arbor Day in California, so it was fitting that we also paid some attention to one of the grandest old trees in the Panhandle: the 100+ year old Moreton Bay Fig near Central. We removed dozens of nasty clumps of Ehrharta grass from the base of its trunk.
Posted by Picasa

Mar 8, 2010

Knowing our history: Mary Helen Briscoe tells of community engagement with the park

One of the biggest champions of the Panhandle Park in recent years is Mary Helen Briscoe. I asked Mary Helen to share some of her park experiences. Here are some highlights from recent years in her own words and pictures.  

Neighbors getting organized to tackle problems
PROSF (Panhandle Residents Organization Stanyan Fulton) began in the eighties and from the first was involved with the Panhandle, the park being the focus of our neighborhood. Early on we joined with Clean City Coalition and other City-wide groups in picking up trash, which I'm bound to say was a worse problem in the nineties than today. There were many encampments and a lot of drug and alcohol abuse, especially near the old restroom and playground at Ashbury.

PROSF worked with the Capital Division of the Rec & Park Dept. to get the new restroom built after it had been closed for more than a year. PROSF also had many members in RAD, an organization working with the police and Guardian Angels to fight the drug problem in the Haight and Panhandle.

Learning to work with the city's Recreation and Parks staff
After working with Gloria Koch-Gonzalez, Park Supervisor, and Kristin Bowman of the R&P Volunteers Office on City-wide cleanups, Gloria asked me to be a volunteer representative for the Panhandle. Her persuasive powers, along with the charm and obvious needs of Guillermo, a Panhandle gardener, led to the regular cleanup, a joint effort with NOPNA (North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association).

The monthly cleanups began in 2007 and it was a great pleasure to work with Guillermo outdoors in a beautiful setting. He is so knowledgeable and cares so deeply about the park, especially the trees, that the cleanups are more than picking up trash, but also a learning experience about the needs and care of trees and other plants.

Guillermo gardens full-time in the park, and also has some fun planting flower beds and, in a whimsical moment, trimming a shrub into a rabbit. It can be found on the south side of the park near a utility box, east of Masonic. On one Saturday cleanup, we hosted a party in and around the playground for the children with refreshments and a pinata supplied by Guillermo.

What getting involved with the parks means to neighbors and families
The other wonderful experience in cleaning up is involvement with neighbors and city-wide volunteers. It is a delightful and hopeful sight to see young children wielding rakes and volunteers' dogs attracting the attention of passers-by. Although we've received thanks and encouragement from those on bikes or foot passing through, we've rarely been able to persuade them to help out. But we're raising consciousness!

Seeing people donating their time and energy to caring for their environment is a healthy example for others, especially the young. Adding more events in the park that are fun will engage people in their surroundings and help keep the park beautiful.

For the past two years PROSF with NOPNA has a grant application out for help in putting out a brochure describing the history and the trees of the Panhandle which are not only beautiful but historic and, often, rare. After the brochure, the plan is to fund at least one sign with the historic and botanical information about the Panhandle, to be placed at Stanyan and/or Baker. Due to cuts in granting agencies, it's taking time but we're still working on it.

Posted by Picasa