May 24, 2010

Big tree splits in half

The old horse-chestnut that dominated the center lawn of the Panhandle Park near Cole split in half on Friday afternoon. The falling branch reportedly came close to knocking out a family walking nearby.

Seen from the north, the damage may not look so drastic, but from the side view (below), it's clear that the tree is nearly destroyed. I enjoyed its showy white flowers each spring and hope that it can be saved. 

The big leaves of the tree were interesting to see during their vernation in March.
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May 19, 2010

Tree vs. Tree near Oak/Lyon

Rec & Park cleans up the aftermath
Passing through the Panhandle Tuesday morning, I found a Rec and Park crew removing a fallen tree near Lyon and Oak. A large branch from a eucalyptus tree was on the ground, and I also saw the stump of a different tree - what looked like an elm.

Where the branch dropped from

The crew confirmed that a branch from a eucalyptus had fallen and crushed an old elm tree.

paper for scale - not a young tree

The crew said they had noticed the fallen tree Monday afternoon at about 1:30 p.m., which was another rainy day (0.06 of an inch). The falling branch had also damaged the small, young elm nearby, but it survived. Fortunately there are three other, mature elms in that vicinity of the Panhandle.

Seen from a distance, the eucalyptus that dropped a limb is HUGE. Many of the large trees in the Panhandle are over a hundred years old. 
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Not-so-muddy May: re-assessing our entry paths

Central @ Fell: This is improvement

See for yourself - the short paths that lead into the Panhandle Park at each cross street are showing across-the-board improvement. Muddy ruts at these entrances, apparently caused when city vehicles access the park by these narrow paths, have long been an eyesore and annoyance to neighbors. I took stock of conditions in February, and found poor/very poor conditions at about half of the paths. Now, despite our super-wet spring, Sunday's Bay to Breakers, and yet another rain shower on Monday, the paths looked pretty good when I visited Tuesday evening.

My standards may be too low - these access paths are far from perfect and need a good sweeping, especially after the hordes using and abusing the park on Sunday. Several paths also need re-paving or repair. But the deep ruts and persistent puddles are way down. It could be from the change of seasons, from better or less use of the paths by trucks, or from the Rec and Park staff paying more attention (perhaps spurred on by complaints from neighbors). Whatever the cause, the change is welcome and reduces an eyesore. Even the big trucks that entered the park last week with porta-potties and trash containers didn't leave much evidence of damage.

Still muddy @ Ashbury from Fell

Here's the summary, showing Feb and May results side-by-side. There are fewer problems overall and no major problems east of Masonic. The worst problems are near Ashbury, which is likely a trouble spot because it's used most frequently by trucks for routine maintenance of the restrooms and playground.

Keep an eye on conditions at the entrance you use the most, and talk to your gardener about it, or use the 311 system to report the problem. It is possible to make a change.

May 10, 2010

More blooms in May

The first tree you pass as you enter the Panhandle from the west is in its peak bloom now. I believe this is a Portugal Laurel, or prunus lusitanica  - the same species as the tree near Shrader that fell during a storm in February.
Further east, one of the two California Buckeyes in the park is also blooming.
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May 9, 2010

May work day wrap up

Our community work day yesterday brought 10 of us together to work on caring for the Panhandle Park.

We made some real progress on removing debris from the North path - this time between Masonic and Ashbury. Our park gardener had staged equipment and safety cones to make this possible. I think that cyclists and other path users are going to notice a big difference. Here's a step by step breakdown of our work: 

Find a target area 

figure out how much you need to uncover

Don the special hat and use the cutting tool

Scoop up the mud and weeds

Make a final sweep

We still had enthusiasm and energy to spare, so we raked eucalyptus leaves from the turf close to the playground. Enjoy your park this weekend and thanks to the Panhandle Park Stewards!

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May 5, 2010

Events coming to the Panhandle: B2B, BTWD, and NOPNA block party

Gear up for some big events in the next two weeks:

May 8: Panhandle Park Work Day
Saturday May 8, 9 am to noon.

May 13: Bike to Work Day
A yearly tradition, a high holy day for the bike community, Bike to Work Day (BTWD) is on Thursday, May 13. The Panhandle is the scene of one of San Francisco's most popular Energizer Stations, supporting riders on the way home from work or school. There's lots of free stuff - while it lasts - for cyclists - so come down, support the bike commuters, and spend some time enjoying your park. Fell @ Masonic, 5 to 7 pm.

May 15: NOPNA Block Party and Food Drive
Just a block off the park - Lyon between Hayes and Grove - is the site of NOPNA's neighborhood block party. NOPNA throws one of the best community-based block parties in SF, bringing together neighbors, kids, food, and music. Bring nonperishable food for the Groceries for Seniors Program. Saturday, May 15 from 11 am to 6 pm. (I'm planning a Panhandle Tree Walk @ 3 pm, leaving from Lyon @ Hayes).

May 16: Bay to Breakers
The 99th annual Bay to Breakers 12K footrace is coming up on Sunday, May 16. Usually, B2B pierces my consciousness when I hear the persistent din of helicopters tracking the race as it courses west on Fell Street. I like to walk over and check out the scene as the masses traverse our neighborhood. The mood is festive, but the thousands and thousands of runners, walkers and drinkers usually outlast my interest. Join the fun by having a picnic in the Panhandle. Take blankets, sunscreen, refreshments, games, a camera, and the Sunday paper (it goes on a really long time...)

May 3, 2010

Our next workday: Saturday, May 8

The next Panhandle Park Stewards work day is fast approaching, so mark your calendars and join your neighbors, even if just for an hour, on Saturday, May 8 between 9 am and noon.

Here's a flyer

There's no better time of year to enjoy the park: the puddles have dried out after the extraordinary soaking of the last rainy season, the trees are leafing out, and the grass is lush and green.

We need your help. Our park gardener has projects awaiting us, and we'll be meeting up near the playground (close to Ashbury). Wear sturdy shoes, and bring your own gloves if you've got 'em. Other tools will be provided.