reforestation in golden gate park

In the book, The Trees of Golden Gate Park (pp. 17-21), Peter Ehrlich describes the Golden Gate Park Forest Management Plan, a reforestation plan for the park, adopted in 1980 (so now 30 years old).   Mr. Ehrlich was in charge of reforestation in the park for ten years, subsequently served for some years as urban forester for the Recreation and Park Deptartment at large, and is now forest manager for the Presidio Trust,  so his credentials on this subject appear to be solid.  According to him, a tree inventory in 1979 showed many of the trees in the park nearing the end of their life spans.  This inventory served as the basis for the tree management plan, which noted the historic landscape character of the park (for example, the relationship of wooded areas to meadow areas and the predominance of evergreens) and outlined procedures for reforestation.  However, replacing trees is quite a challenge in this park, due to poor soil conditions (underlying sand dunes that contain few nutrients and don’t retain water very well), increasing use of the park (pedestrian as well as vehicular), crowded growing conditions (new trees have to compete for sun and moisture), the spread of a pine pitch canker (to which Monterey Pines are particularly susceptible), etc.   Special tall, slender planting containers have been used to encourage deeper root development and new trees must be watered by hand for three to four years.   There was a plan for “top-dressing [new tree] plantations with compost made from the chipped and shredded branches and leaves of prunings and tree removals in the park.”  By 2000, “fourteen thousand trees had been planted  .  .  .  resulting in 110 acres of reforested parkland.”

This is a fascinating story!  How many of those new trees have survived?  Which planting methods have worked best?  How has the species list evolved?  Were procedures modified through trial and error?   Is there documentation of this 30-year program?

I  like the sound of the 1980 Golden Gate Park Forest Management Plan described by Peter Ehrlich, and would like to know more about it, how it has been implemented, what has been learned, how it is used today, if it is used today?  The 2006 Urban Forest Plan for the City and County of San Francisco covers Golden Gate Park, of course,  but applies a broad brush to the whole city.  I hope the trees in Golden Gate Park are being managed differently from street trees or trees in newer, smaller parks!  Maybe it’s time to revisit that 30-year old Golden Gate Park Forest Management Plan?

The 2006 Urban Forest Plan:


About fromthethicket

I'm a landscape historian and professor emeritus of landscape architecture, UC Davis. I live in San Francisco.
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1 Response to reforestation in golden gate park

  1. milliontrees says:

    From the thicket says, “…the spread of a pine pitch canker (to which Monterey Pines are particularly susceptible)”

    About 5 years ago, Kelly Cornell told me that a nursery had bred a Monterey pine that was resistant to pine canker, so that after years of not planting Monterey pines, RPD was finally able to plant them again. Kelly replaced Peter Ehrlich as the head of RPD’s urban forestry dept when Peter left.

    I wish we could breed or find a cure for Sudden Oak Death. That would be a wonderful accomplishment.

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