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Lake Merced

Lake Merced

Lake Merced is a 614 acre park with a very high level of recreational use.  NAP proposes to take 396 acres of this park to create a “natural area”. 


Recreation at Lake Merced includes:  boating, rowing, sailing, fishing, off-leash dog play, walking, jogging, rollerblading, bicycling, skeet shooting, picnicking, feeding of waterfowl, and golf.  In speaking to an urban forestry expert from the State of California, we learned that as common sense would dictate, Lake Merced is a perfect example of NAP overkill.  This individual described a “natural area” as a “mini ecosystem with native plants and soils which have adapted to the current environment, and with encouragement can prosper”.  This sounds much like the underlying premise for NAP; as stated by NAP Director Lisa Wayne, to “preserve what is left of the original habitat and protect it from further degradation…enhance these little remnants that are degraded”.   


The problem is there is no “mini ecosystem”, little or no “original habitat” here.  Lake Merced for the most part is populated by non-native plants.  Non-native plants dominate the forest, grassland, mosaic, and other herbaceous areas of Lake Merced.  The only sectors dominated by native plants are the scrub area and wetlands.  The heavy recreational usage of this park makes survival of native plants here unlikely.  The suggestion was made by the expert that investing the time, money, and effort to create natural areas that do not now and may never have existed is not realistic.  The likelihood of success is extremely low, and the money could be much better spent.  At Lake Merced, access to certain recreational facilities would have to be taken away in order to create a “natural area”.  There would be no compensation to the public for the loss of their access to recreation.  Good public planning would exclude Lake Merced from NAP for all of the reasons enumerated above.  In defiance of common sense and good public planning principles, NAP intends to do the following at Lake Merced:


         134 trees will be removed.  Beyond that, destruction of non-native saplings and seedlings (these are by common definition trees) in areas designated by NAP shall be in total.  NAP officials do not believe they need to be accountable to the public for the number of seedlings or saplings they remove.  Please see Wayne’s World Item #4 for further explanation.

         Destruction of non-native plants and shrubs at NAP discretion.

         3,447 feet of trails will be closed to the public.

         Augmentation and reintroduction of “sensitive” species of plants to attempt to justify the closures.  Please note the designation of “sensitive” is not mandated by the State or Federal government.  This designation was assigned by local native plant and bird enthusiasts.  It is an arbitrary designation, not an official one.  These species do not require protection by law.  State or Federally listed threatened or endangered species of plants or animals do require protection if they reside here, however none is documented as being present at Lake Merced.  It is claimed the Bank Swallow forages here (a California threatened species), but they do not nest or breed at Lake Merced.

         The feeding of animals will be discouraged.

         Reduction in “predation pressure”.  This would refer to the killing of feral cats, red eared slider turtles, soft-shelled turtles and any other wildlife NAP deems unacceptable.

         Use of the Dog Play Area (DPA) at Lake Merced would be monitored. If use levels increase such that impacts to breeding bird habitat are detected, SFRPD would consider relocating the DPA to a different section of the lake (perhaps Sunset Circle parking lot).  The other alternative suggested is that the DPA be designated as on-leash.

         Restrict public access to waters and Shoreline of East Lake April through August to protect the Western Pond Turtle (a species of concern, but not mandated by the government for protection).


Public planning does not support the loss of recreational facilities in a dense urban area, and the financial expenditure to create a “natural area” here would be massive.  So massive, NAP has refused to disclose the cost to create this natural area.  Are these funds that could better be spent elsewhere in the park system?  Will there be the manpower and funds to maintain this new habitat?  Will it be sustainable?  We encourage the reader to go to our comment page and let their public officials know how they feel about NAP here at Lake Merced as well as in the rest of San Francisco’s parks.

Pine tree