1) What is NAP?
NAP stands for “Natural
Areas Program” here in San Francisco. It is a program currently proposed
by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (SFRPD). The concept of Natural Areas is rooted in a philosophy that segregates
plants and trees into categories based upon whether it is believed a particular species is native to our area. According to those who have created the NAP, native plants are considered superior to non-native plants. NAP advocates refer to non-native plants and trees as invasive plants or weeds. Therefore, according to the NAP ideology, Eucalyptus, Cypress and Monterey Pine trees are weeds and plans for Natural Areas will mandate their
removal. NAP advocates envision natural areas as areas where all non-native plants have been removed, and only native plants
are replanted. This process is ironically referred to as “restoration”
by native plant enthusiasts.
The problem with this philosophy
is that most of the native plants are scarce at this point in time because they have not evolved to our changing environment—remember
Darwin’s “survival of the fittest”? And, the vast majority of our trees and plants we currently enjoy are non-native. Natural areas also require protection from public access (fencing off), as native
plants are not hardy, and traffic by people or animals can bring seeds from non-native plants into the Natural Areas which
will grow and choke out the native plants. And, there are plans to “eliminate”
wildlife that may interfere with Natural Areas. So, as you can see, this name could be considered a bit of a misnomer, some
would contend that this should be termed the “Unnatural Areas Program”.
In effect, these native plant enthusiasts are attempting to fool Mother Nature.
This would also explain why “Natural Areas” are labor intensive;
labor to remove all the healthy plants in an area, labor to replace them with fragile ones, and labor to maintain as
continual “weeding” must be done to keep these areas “pure”.
For many people, “Natural
Areas” represent a culture of death; as healthy plants and trees are destroyed to create them, and wildlife is sometimes
killed as well. The decision you must make is whether or not you believe these
native plants are worth the destruction of entire ecosystems throughout the parks in San Francisco
and one large park in Pacifica.
2) How much is NAP as proposed going to cost?
We cannot be sure. SFRPD is not giving us any specifics. Here
is what we do know: the proposed NAP budget for 2005-2006 is $975,000. The salary of
NAP Director Lisa Wayne is budgeted for $93,000.00 annually plus benefits.
There is a paid volunteer coordinator for NAP exclusively, as well as 8 gardeners assigned to the NAP.
Outside of the NAP budget
, acquisitions and habitat restoration work can be done within the Capital Projects program—like the 3.4 million dollars
spent on Parcel 4. Click here to see more about the Balboa Natural Area (Parcel 4)
What should the SF Recreation
and Park Department’s spending priorities be? The Parks Performance Assessment
was a study done by independent consultants for SFRPD in 2002. Speaking with
focus groups consisting of a wide variety of park users, the major concerns included cleanliness (e.g. clean, accessible restrooms),
safety, staff availability, and updated recreational facilities. Planting and maintaining native plants was NOT a priority. Essentially, people, not plants, should receive priority. Our parks are not nature preserves.
SFRPD has refused to provide
the type of information to the public that would ensure accountability for the NAP spending.
For example, the Open Space Fund as presented to the voters, was supposed to pay for new parks, after-school programs,
urban forestry and community garden projects. However, the Capital Plan budget
as presented by SFRPD to the Park, Recreation and Open Space Advisory Committee in December of 2003 was not supported by the
Committee at the time. Why? One
objection was that it contained money for the NAP but no money for the community gardens.
Despite the passage of Proposition
A and C in 2000, we still have inadequate gardening staff for conventional recreational areas.
For example, there are approximately 30 acres of parkland, playgrounds, and athletic fields in the Sunset District. The area used to be maintained by a staff of five gardeners,
a supervisor and three janitors. Currently, there are only four gardeners and a part-time janitor struggling to maintain the
heavily used soccer fields and playgrounds.
Please click here to view section "Yomi the Money!" for additional details on the cost on NAP.
3) Can we see before and after (computer generated) photos so we can visualize
how NAP as proposed will change our park?
SFRPD was asked this question
at a NAP sponsored meeting on June 28, 2005. SFRPD staff did not indicate they
had any intention of providing the public this visual aid. If SFRPD had been honest with the public at the inception of NAP,
they would have provided the public before and after renditions of their parks prior to the Proposition C vote.
4) Did we really vote for this “Natural Areas Program”?
Most people do not remember
voting for the “Natural Areas Program”. NAP was not presented to
the public in a forthright manner. NAP was funded as part of an “open space”
measure, Proposition C in 2000. At the time, acting Parks Chief Joel Robinson
was quoted in the SF Chronicle as saying, “Propositions A and C are opportunities
for the city of San Francisco to return its parks to the pristine
condition that every neighborhood so richly deserves”. Click here to read the article from the SF Chronicle explaining the measures to the voters. Click here to read the article from the SF Examiner explaining the measures to the voters.
Voters were clearly not told this Proposition would fund a program that would cut down healthy trees, limit the public’s access
to park facilities and take money away from recreational maintenance and upgrades in the SFRPD.
Here is how the actual ballot
“Shall the City extend the Open Space Fund for 30 years, add new planning and budgeting requirements, and authorize
the Board of Supervisors to issue revenue bonds secured by the Fund?”
5) Do Natural Areas really belong in our parks?
Yes and no. Lisa Wayne, Natural Areas Program Director, described the intent of NAP as being, “Preserve what is left of the original habitat and protect it from further degradation…enhance these little remnants
that are degraded”.
If Ms. Wayne’s above
rendition was consistent with the actual NAP proposal, it may very well fit into
the parks system nicely. But, the NAP goes far beyond what was described to the
public by Lisa Wayne. In many parks, (one example being Bernal Heights) NAP proposes to have 24.1 of
24.1 acres designated as a Natural Area. Click here to view the actual acreage allocated in each park as a "significant natural area". A detailed evaluation of the specific plan for Bernal Heights reveals that there is little or no original habitat
there, and there are no threatened, endangered, or sensitive species (by definition of State or Federal agencies) there. On the contrary, NAP intends to destroy the current ecosystem and introduce species some members of the local native plant society and the local Audubon society personally consider
“sensitive”. In doing so, they will limit public access and fencing
will be installed to confine park visitors to the walkways they have chosen for you.
The changes in the ecosystem will have an unknown effect on the wildlife currently in this area. And in fact, NAP plans to destroy wildlife that interferes with their plan here and at all “Natural
Clearly, Lisa Wayne’s
representations of NAP are dishonest. NAP intends to take parklands from the public and create
“Natural Areas” that suit the minority of the population who are native plant ideologues, to the exclusion of
all others. The funding for NAP will come from monies that could otherwise be
utilized for after-school programs or improvement of recreational areas a much larger segment of the population would utilize.
Other parks where NAP intends
to make aggressive changes are Stern Grove/Pine Lake and Lake
Merced. Neither of these
areas are currently habitats, and the creation of such in heavily utilized urban parks such as these reflects a basic lack
of concern for the recreational park user by SFRPD planners.
6) Isn’t SFRPD supposed to be concerned with recreation rather than
Yes, the Mission Statement for
“The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department's Mission is to provide enriching recreational activities, maintain
beautiful parks and preserve the environment for the well-being of our diverse community.”
7) Is SFPRD obligated by the General Plan for San Francisco to preserve these remnants of original habitat?
The General Plan does not mandate
the NAP be utilized to preserve remnants of original habitat. There are guidelines,
but they are voluntary. There are also the issues of how habitats and sensitive
species are defined. San Francisco
is not bound legally to protect species that State or Federal agencies do not classify as threatened or endangered. To allow a few individuals from local special interest groups to define a random species as “sensitive”
and destroy parkland to find a place for that “sensitive” species is a violation of the public trust.