Thursday, June 09, 2011

Rays of effing sunshine: San Bruno Mountain

Last night I learned why there's a windswept, sometimes harsh, always lovely, mountain surviving in the midst of urban sprawl just fifteen minutes drive from my house. San Bruno Mountain survives as open space because of San Francisco's garbage.

So explained David Schooley of Mountain Watch who has been fighting to keep the mountain open and as much in its native state as possible for 42 years. Schooley (the gent who looks like Father Time) spoke an event at based on the anthology Ten Years That Shook the City: San Francisco 1968-1978. I've barely glanced at this book yet; I suspect it may inspire quite a few posts.

But back to the Mountain, a place I usually frequent weekly, running over the peak and sometimes much further. According to Schooley's essay:

The miracle is that San Bruno Mountain has survived so long. The tide of San Francisco suburbs parted at its base and moved on to leave the Mountain the last island of true Franciscan country left on earth, its plant and animal communities little altered, its Ohlone village sites surprisingly undisturbed by the bay, rare and endangered species visibly intact.

... from 1920 to 1960, the City of San Francisco inadvertently saved the Mountain; marshes, lagoons, and creeks at the base of San Bruno Mountain slowly filled with the shining City's garbage, acre after acre of up-to-date stench floating beside its ridges and canyons.

The only people who lived hard by this stinking mound were Blacks clustered in Hunters Point. In the '60s, the conservationist movement to "Save the Bay" cleaned up the shoreline, but by then a constituency had come into being to fight to save the Mountain from developers. Ever since, community groups and developers have duked it out, winning much of the area for parkland, but also losing habitat to encroaching development.

This Mountain Watch aerial photo shows how much of an island the peak and ridge remain. That's the Bayshore (101) Freeway in the right foreground, the town of Brisbane nestled on the adjacent slopes and San Francisco spreading out at the top of the picture. You can just make out the "South San Francisco The Industrial City" sign at the left bottom of this aerial shot. I run in the (seasonally) green upper left west quadrant of the park, though once in a while I'll come down the ridge toward the bay.

Schooley, who has spent a lifetime saving the Mountain, writes of its healing mysteries.

While some battles were lost and others won, a different kind of potency has always been in the background, a vision of San Bruno Mountain as a native place rather than issue or image. Perhaps, some thought, the concept of Park or Preserve can be turned inside out here on San Bruno Mountain-- no longer an enclosure under siege, a senescent remnant under glass, but a seed ground; not a place to get away from it all, but a place to get into; not a place to look at, but a place to see from.

I like that thought. Usually the Mountain is a hard place, but not always. Occasionally it is lush. Here's a picture I snapped just days ago on a little used trail.
san bruno mtn flowers.jpg

I am grateful for the many who have worked to save the Mountain.

I don't want to just gripe here all the time. I do after all, quite frequently, encounter things and people that delight me. Hence this feature: occasional posts labeled "rays of effing sunshine."

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