Tree Portraits, Golden Gate Park

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“Windswept at the Beach” pastel by Heath Massey

Please stop by the Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture at the San Francisco Botanical Garden to see the current exhibit of pastel portraits that I have painted over the past few years of various trees throughout Golden Gate Park.  The show will be on view through April 29.  Library Hours:  10 am – 4 pm (closed Tues. and most holidays).

My aim in these portraits is to capture the distinctive charm, beauty and character of individual trees, as well as to convey a range of landscapes in the park.  The trees are identified by both common and botanical name and the location of each pastel is shown on a map of the park.  So you can “tour” the entire park from the dry, warm interior of this charming library.  Let it rain!

This is also an excellent time to visit the Botanical Garden, as the magnolias are in bloom.  Just bring your umbrella.

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“In the East Asia Garden” pastel by Heath Massey


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Corpse Flower Blooms Again in the Golden Gate Park Conservatory of Flowers

Common Name: Corpse Flower, Titan Arum
Family Name: Araceae
Native to: Sumatra, Indonesia


Corpse Flower omits a “foul odor of rotting animal flesh” and only blooms for a few days every 7-10 years, according to the Conservatory.
This year’s flower, Suma the Titan, is a 10-year-old sibling of last year’s flower Terra the Titan and it will bloom for the first time.
The Conservatory of Flowers has extended its hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Wednesday.



“Oooh, that smell. Can’t you smell that smell?

Soon, many in San Francisco will be able to smell the pungent yet popular bloom of the Corpse Flower, which began to open Sunday at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, according to a conservatory spokesperson.

When Suma the Titan, an Amorphophallus titanum commonly known as Corpse Flower, reaches its peak bloom, it is accompanied with a foul smell in the evenings. The bloom will last for only 2-3 days, the conservatory said.

The scent is a deception device that tricks pollinators into thinking the plant is rotting organic matter, or as some describe it, rotting flesh, the conservatory said.

It’s the first bloom for Suma, a sibling to last year’s Corpse Flower bloom, Terra the Titan, the conservatory said.”

For tickets and more information, visit

(NBC News, July 22, 2018)

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Golden Gate Park fly-fishing club celebrates 85th anniversary

‘Back in the 1960s, when Armando Bernasconi first walked past the three sparkling blue pools tucked away in Golden Gate Park, he thought he had found a swimming spot that just never had any swimmers.  But Bernasconi soon discovered that the artificial ponds were a training ground for master anglers seeking to refine their fly-fishing and casting skills.   And since he retired at age 62, Bernasconi, now 95, has been almost a daily presence at the casting pools.“  Even when I go out to fish, I still come here every day,” said Bernasconi, who had stopped his daily ritual a few months ago because of illness.

On Saturday, Bernasconi found his way back to the casting pools and the Anglers Lodge as the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club celebrated two concurrent anniversaries — 80 years since the facilities were built and 85 years since the club was formed.  When the club was founded in 1933, members had a lodge on the park’s Stow Lake.   But in 1938, some of the anglers heard of a Portland, Ore., group that persuaded the Works Progress Administration, tasked with creating jobs through infrastructure projects during the Great Depression, to fund casting ponds up in Oregon.The club persuaded Golden Gate Park directors and the WPA to sponsor a similar project, and in 1939, the first national casting tournament was held at the newly constructed Angler’s Lodge.

On the second Saturday of every month, the club hosts casting lessons at the ponds, free and open to the public.   For Saturday’s celebration, about 150 casters of all levels ringed the three ponds to hone their skills.  “The ponds are like a driving range for golf, but instead for casting,” said Willy George, the club’s president.   “You can wade in, practice your distance, or set up targets to improve your accuracy.”  Growing up in Wisconsin, George had always loved fishing and the outdoors, but he didn’t learn to fly-fish until he moved to California.   He started at a casting club in the East Bay, but joined the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club once he wanted to master the sport.  “This club is the place to go if you want to get better,”   George said. “Until I got here, I was a big fish in a small pond.”

In addition to its monthly casting lessons, the club’s outreach includes organized outings to fishing spots, a program for disabled veterans, and various classes in tying flies and building rods.  Larry Kenney, a longtime club member and San Francisco native, said the group has expanded its outreach efforts in recent years and seen its membership both grow and diversify.   In the past three or four years, Kenney said, the club has gone from 350 members to more than 1,000.  “It used to be a bunch of curmudgeonly old men, but it’s a lot more open now,” Kenney said, adding that the falling cost of fishing equipment as technology has improved has made the sport more accessible.

Saturday’s casting lessons ranged from novices to masters, from regulars at the lodge to those who stumbled upon the pond by chance.  Janice Matthews and Carol Albury-Johnson, two friends in their 60s on vacation in the city, heard about the event on a morning news show and called it a stroke of luck and timing.   The two women are experienced anglers but never had a chance to learn how to fly-fish.  “My friends who fly-fished were all snooty, and I was afraid to even take a class,” Albury-Johnson said.   “But nobody knows me here, and I’m so excited we found this.”’

Source: Golden Gate Park fly-fishing club celebrates 85th anniversary – San Francisco Chronicle

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Central Park Goes Car-Free Forever on June 27

If New York can do it, surely we can too!!

‘The campaign for a car-free park has lasted more than half century and involved thousands of people. Today’s historic announcement by Mayor de Blasio belongs to all of them.

Central Park will go car-free forever on June 27, Mayor de Blasio announced today, the culmination of a campaign that has spanned seven mayoralties and more than 50 years.

“This park was not built for automobiles. It was built for people,” de Blasio said this morning. “People walking, people biking — that’s what this park will now be about.”

Central Park predates the automotive era, but as cars proliferated in the city, the oasis of the park became a shortcut for motor vehicle traffic. Motorists had unfettered access to the park’s loop roads until the 1960s, when activists first prevailed on City Hall to begin limiting the presence of automobiles.  .  .  .

The campaign for a car-free Central Park has taken generations to reach this point. No one has worked harder for it than Ken Coughlin, the leading advocate for more than two decades.

“I’m at a loss for words because I’ve been looking forward to this day for 26 years,” he said. “None of the incremental closings, car restrictions, resulted in any additional traffic on surrounding streets, and DOT had data to support that. It was just a matter of them believing their own statistics.”

Clarence Eckerson has been documenting the car-free Central Park campaign for as long as he’s been making Streetfilms. Here’s his video [“>Case for Car-Free Central Park] to mark this milestone.’

Source: Central Park Goes Car-Free Forever on June 27

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Revealed: Golden Gate Park is the Most Valuable Green Space in the World



A recent study, published in the London Evening Standard last week, compared 12 iconic urban parks in the world in terms of the value of the real estate they occupy.  The results:   Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is the most expensive urban green space in the world.   It is worth more than $49 billion.  The study calculated values by multiplying the size of the park by the average apartment value per sq/m in the city.  Central Park in New York, which is smaller than Golden Gate Park, is worth more than $45 billion based on New York property prices.

Obviously the cultural capital enjoyed by these parks outweighs their monetary value.  Let’s hope that doesn’t change!

Source: Revealed: Hyde Park is one of the 12 most valuable green spaces in the world | London Evening Standard

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Coyotes: Beyond the Howl, An Educational Exhibit by Janet Kessler | Coyote Yipps

In the past I’ve written on this blog about coyotes in Golden Gate Park, and Janet Kessler’s wonderful photographs of urban coyotes.   Now I’d like to give a shout-out to an exhibit of her photographs opening this Sunday at the Sausalito Library.  Not to be missed!

In Janet’s own words  .  .  .  .

“Coyotes are social and, except for some transients, live in families. The 28 large 24”x16” zoomed-in snapshots in this exhibit show some of their less-seen behaviors and interactions, as well as their individuality: each coyote looks different, and the differences reach deeper than their fur. Short howling and hunting video clips are included. An explanation of a few relevant survival behaviors and some simple guidelines help round out “the picture” of these neighbors who are becoming a more visible part of the urban landscape.

Janet Kessler a.k.a, “the Coyote Lady” in San Francisco, has been called a, “pioneer in the photo-documentation of the lives of urban coyotes, capturing their intimate lives”. She is a self-taught naturalist and urban coyote specialist who, daily over the past 11 years, has been documenting coyote family life, their behavior towards people and pets — and our pets’ behavior towards them — and getting information and easy coexistence guidelines out to everyone. Google her “Coyotes As Neighbors” video, and visit:

Dates: January 28 to March 10, 2018

Hours:  Monday-Thursday 10am-9pm daily; Friday-Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday noon-5pm

Place: Sausalito Public Library, located in the City Hall building at 420 Litho Street in Sausalito Enter parking lot from Bee Street (off Caledonia Street).

From San Francisco, take a ferry ride over! Janet will be in and out. If you have questions, just seek her out, or contact her through her blog,

Source: Coyotes: Beyond the Howl, An Educational Exhibit by Janet Kessler | Coyote Yipps

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S.F. breaking ground on wastewater recycling plant

The sprawling lawns of Golden Gate Park and two major San Francisco golf courses are very thirsty places, and in the coming years, recycled wastewater will satisfy that thirst, thanks to a new treatment plant being built by the city’s water agency. On Wednesday, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will begin construction on the plant that, when completed, will pump around 1.6 million gallons of treated wastewater each day to sprinklers dotting Golden Gate Park, Lincoln Park Golf Course and the Presidio Golf Course.

Those lush locales are now irrigated with drinking water — hundreds of millions of gallons each year that the city will soon be able to conserve, substantially adding to the store of drinkable water that can be tapped in the event of a natural disaster or other major emergency.

“What we’re really trying to focus on is getting the right water for the right uses,” said Steven Ritchie, assistant general manager for the SFPUC’s water division. “This is the first serious use of wastewater by San Franciscans for irrigation in decades,” he said.

Similar wastewater recycling projects have sprung up across the state as cities and intensive agricultural operations look to diversify their water sources.

“Recycling is really where the next big batch of water resilience and security is going to come from in urban parts of California,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “It’s a very high priority,” she said, adding that the state has disbursed over $1 billion in low-cost loans and grants “to take water recycling projects from the drawing boards and getting them going on the ground.”

The new plant, scheduled to be completed by 2021, will cost around $214 million with $186 million of that from a low-interest loan the city secured from the state, Ritchie said.

Golden Gate Park, the city’s largest park, will receive most of the reclaimed water. Phil Ginsburg, general manager of San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department, said the 1,000-acre park uses about 400 million gallons of water each year, including on its nine-hole golf course.

“I think the last half-decade or so has taught us what a precious resource water is, and it’s our shared mission with the PUC to do all we can to conserve it,” Ginsburg said.

Ritchie said the SFPUC is still working out a contractual agreement with the Presidio Trust, which oversees the Presidio Golf Club, to arrange for the water’s delivery there.

The new facility will be built adjacent to the SFPUC’s Oceanside Treatment Plant on San Francisco’s west side, which processes an average of 17 million gallons of wastewater and storm water each day, or about 20 percent of the city’s total. San Francisco is unique among coastal cities in California in that it relies on a combined sewer system that captures and treats wastewater and storm water using the same set of pipes. The bulk of the city’s wastewater and storm runoff — about 80 percent — is treated at the Southeast Treatment Plant, located in the Bayview.

The new plant will capture some of the water treated at the Oceanside plant that would ordinarily be discharged into the Pacific Ocean. At the new plant, the recaptured water will first undergo intensive filtration and pressurized purification to eliminate bacteria, organic particles and unwanted chemicals. It will then be disinfected with ultraviolet light.

The SFPUC has already laid most of the roughly 8 miles of new pipeline, mostly along 34th and 36th avenues and through the center of Golden Gate Park, that will convey the recycled water to its destinations. The agency also plans to build an 840,000-gallon underground reservoir at the park, along with a pumping station that will push water north toward the golf courses.

Both the reservoir and pump station will be built in a maintenance yard inaccessible to the public, and the city anticipates no recreational space will be lost during or after construction.

The recycled wastewater will exceed the state’s health regulations, according to the SFPUC, and the water will pose no danger to pets or wildlife.

“It’s not going into water fountains or sinks,” Ginsburg said, “but it’s clean and safe and appropriate for park landscapes.”

Source: S.F. breaking ground on wastewater recycling plant

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Loving Golden Gate Park – San Francisco Women Artists




Eucalyptus at Dust, pastel on paper, by Heath Massey, 2017


“Loving Golden Gate Park”

An exhibit of art about Golden Gate Park, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love.  San Francisco Women Artists Gallery, 647 Irving St. @ 8th Ave., Oct. 3 – Nov. 4

Juror: Matt McKinley, McKinley Art Solutions

All work available for purchase. Contact the SFWA Gallery

Source: Loving Golden Gate Park – San Francisco Women Artists

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Solar Eclipse 2017: Life Responds | California Academy of Sciences

Photo by Luc Viator (CC-BY-SA)

In case the clouds part and you want to experience the eclipse in Golden Gate Park, here’s a citizen science project that you can participate in, thanks to the California Academy of Science:

“The next solar eclipse is crossing the U.S. on August 21, 2017.  .  .

How does life respond to the dramatic event of a total solar eclipse? There is some evidence that plant and animal life react to the environmental changes that occur during a total solar eclipse. As the sky darkens and the temperature drops, birds reportedly stop singing, spiders may tear down their webs, and gray squirrels retreat to their dens, among other observed behaviors. Much of these reports, however, are anecdotal or documented with captive animals. On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cross the continental United States, from coast to coast. The Academy invites citizen scientists like you to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to record eclipse-related animal behavior with the iNaturalist app.

Before the eclipse: Download the iNaturalist app on the App Store or Google Play and make an account. Practice making observations. Check out the Getting Started Guide for helpful tips. Join the Life Responds project on iNaturalist. Decide where you will be viewing the eclipse and know when the eclipse will be at maximum at your location. Use this map to help determine that time:  map

Day of the eclipse (Aug 21):

  1. Once you arrive at your site, scout your area for animals and plants. Choose the individual organism(s) you want to observe.
  2. During the eclipse, make 3 separate observations for each individual organism using the iNaturalist app, adding each of them to the “Life Responds” project:
    • 1st: 30 minutes before totality (or maximum coverage) make an observation in iNaturalist. Add anything interesting you notice about their behavior in the “Notes” section.
    • 2nd: During the 5 minutes of totality (or maximum coverage) make a second observation in iNaturalist. Add anything interesting you notice about their behavior in the “Notes” section.
    • 3rd: 30 minutes after totality (or maximum coverage) make a third and final observation in iNaturalist. Add anything interesting you notice about their behavior in the “Notes” section.
    • You’re welcome to make other observations of your organism(s) beyond these three – just be sure to choose the time frame in which you made these other observations in “Before, During, or After Totality” field.

For questions or more information, please contact:”

Source: Solar Eclipse 2017: Life Responds | California Academy of Sciences

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Metson Lake

Cypresses at Metson Lake

Cypresses at Metson Lake, Pastel on Paper, 10 x 13, by Heath Massey

Metson Lake, south-east of the Polo Field, is an out-of-the-way gem in Golden Gate Park.  Built in 1908 and intended as a reservoir to hold irrigation water for the park,   it opened in conjunction with the Murphy Windmill, a mile away, which pumped water to fill the lake from an underground aquifer near the beach.  Originally, water spilled into the lake via a waterfall and if you take the path around the lake you can still spot remnants of artificial rock work and speculate about the former waterworks.

William H. Metson, a prominent San Francisco lawyer and financier, was the head of the Park Commission at the time of the lake’s construction.

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