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Frequently Asked Questions about NAP

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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 measure read:

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 Areas”. 

 

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 Natural Areas?

 

Yes, the Mission Statement for SFRPD reads:

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.

 

 

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8)  Does the NAP in any way compromise the public’s safety?

 

Yes.  Many of the NAP proposals violate the legal requirement to protect public safety which is the first performance standard in the Operational Plan for SFRPD.  The Operational Plan states “the Department shall consider, among other matters, the following issues:  Public safety, which shall include the reduction of environmental and other hazards, safe equipment operations and safe pesticide use”.

 

NAP proposals for Lake Merced and Sharp Park make no mention of the need for toxic lead waste cleanup as part of any rehabilitation of these parks.  In both cases, there is toxic lead in the soil in old rifle range areas that currently endangers wildlife and water quality.  At Sharp Park, SFRPD has been promising cleanup since 1994, often citing the expense as a factor preventing completion of this task.  How is it SFRPD justifies spending millions of dollars “reinventing” our parks to suit the desires of a few native plant enthusiasts, while toxic waste is allowed to persist in damaging our environment? 

 

The NAP proposal acknowledges that erosion in the park properties endangers the public safety.  Yet, repeatedly, the NAP plans to remove non-native plants and trees that are proven superior to resist erosion and replace them with native plants.  Native plants are inferior in resisting erosion.  NAP planners are not deterred. 

 

Even worse, in Sharp Park, SFRPD intends to create a “Natural Area” in over 200 of the 400 acres there.  Despite acknowledgement that there is a serious erosion problem within this park, the NAP states specifically it does not intend to address the erosion unless “capital funds are made available”.  SFRPD intends to utilize capital funds to remove over 200 acres of healthy, non-native plants, remove 15,000 trees in Sharp Park and plant native plants throughout those 200 plus acres.  However, SFRPD has no capital funds allocated to resolve a serious erosion problem which poses a significant public safety risk! 

 

The creation of “natural areas” has historically introduced herbicides to new areas of the parks.  NAP planners have stated that herbicides will only be used "if necessary" and that
manual removal of weeds is preferred. However, NAP has also stated that each gardener is responsible for about 100 acres.  Even with the assistance of volunteers, manual removal of all weeds is impossible. After repeated questioning, NAP admits to 2% of staff time as being spent administering herbicides.  Many believe that is a gross underestimate.  Prior to becoming “natural areas” these sites were not exposed to herbicides because there was no need to compulsively remove all non-native plants.  Glyphosate (Round-up) and additives in its formula are suspected toxins and irritants, exposing humans and the ecosystem to new risks. The Precautionary Principle, adopted by the SF Dept of Environment, indicates that in the absence of data, one should select the safest option. Because there is a lack of scientific data supporting the safety of herbicide formulas (glyphosate and additives) the use of these herbicides should be avoided.  Public safety would mandate that NAP sites should be limited to small areas where NAP staff and volunteers can maintain the area without the use of any herbicides.

 

9)  What can I do?

 

Communicate with your City officials as to how you feel about the NAP.  If you go to our comments page, we have created an e-mail facility to help you do that.

 

Speak to your friends and neighbors about NAP.  Encourage them to learn how NAP might affect their interests here in San Francisco.

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