A BRIEF DISCUSSION OF MUWEKMA OHLONE POCKET PARK AT ISLAIS CREEK

 

 

Many, many years ago before the Europeans came into our area, there ran a pristine body of fresh water through large expanses of marshes in the southeast sector of present day San Francisco. This body ran almost 3 miles inland to Allemany Boulevard and was fed by numerous tributaries, springs and small creeks. This area was the home of a cornucopia of marine wildlife that fed the original human inhabitants- chiefly the Muwekma Ohlone Indian Tribes. To this day there still exists large shell mounds in the vicinity. This river also had huge migrations of herring and other species of fish, which still migrate yearly to this area to the degree that it brings in the commercial fishing vessels by the hundreds. Until the late 1800’s this body of water provided 85% of the drinking water for the city of San Francisco. But over the years, progress has filled all but 3/4 miles of this river. Rendering plants dumped millions of tons of discarded animal blood and organs.("Butcher Town") raw sewage and effluents flowed into the river until a year ago. Automobile battery plants, auto wrecking yards, shipping, commuter bus storage and repair yards, tour bus companies, aluminum manufacturing, highways and roads, toxic waste soil & treatment plants, rendering plants, scrap metal yards and many other sorts of industry line the shores of this river.

This body of water is now known as "Islais Creek."

The name "Islais" is actually a mis - pronunciation by the first Spanish settlers of an Indian word "Islay."

"Islay" was an Indian word that meant "wild cherry," named after the wild cherry tree that grew in abundance in this area and the peninsula.

Today, upon the north shore of Islais Creek in San Francisco, there exists a small, obscure strip of land, unused since the inception of Pier 80 nearly 70 years ago. (land fill) rather small it covers approximately one acre and at low tides, exposes an additional 1.5 acres. This site is surrounded by : 1. Islais Creek to it’s South side. 2. Pier 80 yard to it’s North side. 3. Illinois Street to it’s West and 4.The Pier 80 cargo dock to it’s East.

Slowly over the years, this obscure site has slowly reclaimed itself to local (and non-native) flora and fauna. It has become a micro riparian zone over the years. It is now frequently visited by numerous migrating populations of birds, humming birds, mocking birds, finches, great and lesser blue herons, pelicans, snowy egrets, marsh hawks, peregrine falcons, ducks, geese, and many others. Native species of plants like the california poppy, indian gum weed(grindelia),

thistle, tree mallow, fortnight lilly, echium, wallflower (erysium), allysum, nasturtium, and many grasses and other perenials.

Also crabs are abundndant and garden spiders.

Very notable is the dramatic growth of pickleweed at the water lines. And until 3 years ago, this area was regularly visited by jackrabbits and burrowing owls.

This site has unique characteristics, in an already unique creek of San Fancisco. That is to say that the it is one of , if not the only site on the shores of Islais Creek that has the unique low tide topograpy of a very low angle gradation, which is now lending itself to marshland growth and marine bird feeding. Unlike all other areas which are either pilings , piers, retaining walls or abrupt drop-offs to deep water. Further enhancing the area actually are the adjacent piers which are home to mussels, pileworms, pile perch which indirectly provide a food source for birds.

This site also has another unique characteristic in that it is directly adjacent to the SAN FRANCISCO BAY TRAIL and sister to the port’s pocket park on the creek between Third and Illinois Street. It will provide a wonderful ammendment to the Bay Trail. Pocket parks are increasingly playing an important role in urban re-forestation and wildlife habitats. This site will enhance the survival and propagation of the flora and fauna of our area.

During the last seven years, a small group of volunteer local residents, who are playfully referred to as the "Islais Creek Guerilla Gardeners" have extensively cleaned and gardened this site. Extensive work has been performed including an irrigation system, weeding out all fennel(back again) removing high tide garbage, planting wildflowers, trees, perenials, both native and non-native. A berm was created to minimize yearly high tide flooding. A cute cutting garden with gopher netting and recycled wrought iron fencing has been established. In the site has been visited by many people in the communtiy as well as SLUG, SAEJ, environmental scientests from RMC Lonestar, Jim Salerno of the sewage treatment plant, a hydrologist, SF Audubon Society, Friends of Islais Creek, the Port of San Francisco, and others.

Also, two ponds have been installed that now are home to California tree frogs and dragonflies.

Also notable is that this work has extended beyond this site to include the area of dirt that borders where Illinois street and the Pier 80 fence line meet from the creek up to Marin street. The volunteers also have put time into cleaning the port pocket park between Third and Illinois street.

All this work at the site has created a dramatic boost to the sites self restoration. It has in effect ,accidentally ,become a habitat and stop over for many birds, insects, butterflies in the vicinity. Although the site does not enjoy the financial or labor support of any agency other than the volunteers, it has wonderful effects on human and all other visitors. The word "sanctuary" may be an appropriate word for the feelings it evokes in visitors, especially in the springtime.

Our group is now writing a grant application to the San Francisco Urban Resources Partnership to obtain resources and money to preserve this unique habitat that is unique in its location, shore line and wetland protection qualities, and its asset to the community, environment, and open spaces and urban and SF Bay Trail.

We are asking SF URP this year to sponsor a master planning grant to cover expenses such as naturalist, hydrologists, landscape architects specializing in shore line habitats, site workers, community meetings, spokesperson, permit info & fees, an irrigation consultant and project manager. We have calculated that a budget of $50,000 will catapult this site well into the creation and protection of a beautiful sanctuary and habitat for the humans and animals of San Francisco.

We believe that the creation of open space should enjoy the same fervor and support that industrial, housing, commercial development has in San Francisco

At this time we have the support and/or letters of support from the following: Friends of Islais Creek , SF Neighborhood Parks Council, SLUG, SF Bay Trail, local community, SAEJ, RMC Lonestar Port gardener, Carol Bach, David Schooley(San Bruno Mountain Watch), SF Audubon Society, Building Resources

various local merchants, and others .

In the tradition of the original inhabitants of the Americas we ask you to take care of the "GREAT MOTHER." By creating this site we will keep in this tradition.

In conclusion, we have contacted you to ask you for your support. We are required to provide two types of support in this grant application.

  1. Letters of support
  2. Matching funds

Matching funds are defined as:

  1. Non-federal funds
  2. Donation of office space, meeting rooms or lease of land
  3. Donation or loan of equipment or supplies
  4. In-kind volunteer labor and professional services( value volunteer labor at $9/hour unless value of professional services is greater)

Please keep your responses as simple and clear as possible.

Unfortunately, the deadline is Friday, July 14, 2000 so we are asking you to email or fax your support info by Yhursday evening, July 13.

Here is the contact information

Email: zabudam@pacbell.net

Fax: 415-821-9300

Office: 415-821-9300

Cell: 415-902-7700

Gratefully, "islais creek guerilla gardeners"