Watch CBS News

Recent storms take toll on trees in San Francisco city parks

Recent storms take toll on trees in San Francisco city parks
Recent storms take toll on trees in San Francisco city parks 02:55

SAN FRANCISCO – The cleanup continues from the January storms, especially for San Francisco city parks, which saw their worst round of tree damage in about 15 years.

Removing all the fallen trees is going to take a while, maybe months. But the bigger job is replacing them all.

"My urban forester and I think that Stern Grove got hit the hardest," said Denny Kern, Director of Operations for San Francisco Rec & Parks. "But again, it's a eucalyptus grove."

In Stern Grove, it was the eucalyptus that came crashing down from the waterlogged hillsides, just a slice of the damage suffered across the city.

"Total, in the entire rec and park system, we lost 140 trees," Kern explained while looking over some of the damage. "That's throughout all of our 225 parks."

Removing all 140 of them will take time. Crews will get the most intrusive ones first, before moving on to the more remote, and often more difficult jobs.

"This one right here is going to be a real challenge for us to do," Kern said, looking at a set of toppled trees on a steep hillside. "Like the leaner right there. We're gonna have to take that one down and haul that out as well."

A downed tree in a San Francisco city park following the storms of January 2023. CBS

Casualties are already making their way back into the parks as mulch, the tree circle of life.

For park lovers, the old canopy taking a beating has been difficult to watch.

"Each one hurts when it comes down," said Jennifer Navarro of San Francisco. "All of the kids love it to be able to climb on these trees, but I still think it's really sad that we're losing these big trees, these historical trees in Golden Gate Park."

While the losses do hurt, the next generation of trees is on the way, and the western end of Golden Gate Park is a prime example.

"Yeah, the little needles here are the cypress and the pine have the long needles like this over here," Kern said, examining a set of young trees.

Those beloved Montereys actually serve as the symbol of the park system, and gardeners are planting a lot of them, every one receiving individual care for about four years.

"We love them all equally and then they're on their own and you see what they do," Kern said. "And then when they are 20 years old or 30 years old, we may have to create some more space for the most successful specimens."

The storms did take a toll, but the real challenge is time; and constantly planning for the eventual loss of aging trees. It is a very long game, played over generations.

"It's actually an old Greek saying," Kern said. "It's the wise people that plant trees, under whose shade they will never sit."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.