This is a a letter from Rick Pavich, Executive Director of the National AIDS Memoral Grove, sent to the gardener who spent 6 years creating the current Grove and who is equally upset by the recent baring of access to the most beautiful space in Golden Gate Park.
I have linked various comments to images and responses.
Thank you for your letter expressing your concerns about thie recently completed Crossroads Circle in the National AIDS Memoral Grove. I have heard from many people about your deep commitment to the Grove and the woderful work you did there. I an sure you know that I have spoken with Christopher Duderstadt about some of the same concerns yo express. However, no one in a management position in the Recreation and Parks Department has contacted me regarding this project.
Let me address your specific concerns. The design of the Crossroads Circle, like
all other hardscape features in the Grove, was approved by the appropriate governing
bodies, including the Recreation and Parks Department and the Boards of Supervisors
of the City and County of San Francisco. The conceptual sketches included with your
letter are just that. The actual blueprints and architectural
designs that were approved (?) clearly indicate three six-inch steps where the
circle intersects the two trails leading to the Fern Grotto along either side of
the Dry Creek.
During winter rains and even during heavy watering, these paths became streams, uncovering roots and washing soil down into the western end of the meadow. The Crossroads Circle was intentionally designed with a low wall and steps on its western side to raise the bottom of these paths in order to slow water runoff and retain soil. The steps are also meant to discourage the use of these fragile trails by mountain bikers - an on going problem in this section the Grove.
As you know, we have gone to great lengths to make the Grove as accessible as possible - making it quite possibly one of the most accessible natural area within the park. ADA planers from the Mayor's office have already reviewed the Grove's accessibility - the recent re-grading of the two main roadways is a direct result of our efforts to conform to ADA guidelines. When presented with the Dry Creek trails, ADA planners advised us that the trails are too dangerous for unaccompanied wheelchairs. They also noted that because of the terrain and in light of the other accessibility improvements in the Grove, no additional modification is necessary - these two trails are simply not appropriate for wheelchairs.
The low steps serve as a warning sign announcing a change of terrain. The low, six-inch rise of each step is the same height as a city street curb. While the Cushman cannot be driven up the steps, it presents little challenge for a wheelbarrow. As I'm sure you remember, our volunteers are well versed in forming bucket brigades to move large amount of soil, stone, and plant material into and out of area inaccessible to vehicles. Given the narrow width of these paths the Cushman could not have been taken much more the eighty feet along them without causing damage to the landscape. I am surprised to hear that pick-up trucks were ever driven along these paths for any distance at all, as they were never meant to be roadways.
Because the Crossroads Circle is needed as a turnaround area for park maintenance vehicles, its size was intentionally kept exactly the same leaving ample room for this purpose. Because the old surface of this area often became a muddy mess in the wet months, its grade was raised, the perimeter framed with stone, and the Circle itself filled with road base material.
These changes along with the low wall greatly improve drainage and make the circle more useful as a turn around for heavy vehicles throughout the year.
The actual design of the Crossroads Circle was modified to protect the two American elms rather than have them removed, although they are within ten to twenty years of reaching their mature life expectancy. In addition, we have built tree wells lined with granite pavers to I protect their root crowns. The soil level around the California madrone, which is outside of the construction area, has not been altered. In fact, it will likely benefit form reduced soil erosion and, apparently, the end of vehicular traffic along the path next to it. It is important to note that this specimen was already noted as having decreased vitality prior to this project.
While making these changes, as with all construction in the Grove, we have tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. Over the next few Workdays we will focus on integrating the completed construction into the landscape. I can assure you that the individuals on our board share your love for the Grove. Many |of our current Board members have served since the inception of the Grove and have spent years raising the funds that have been used to turn this formerly derelict, unusable tract of land into one of the most loved sections of Golden Gate Park. Having worked for an organization in Washington, DC, that was instrumental in securing passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I share your concerns about access, as does the Grove board. We will continue-to ensure the those areas in the Grove that are safely accessible remain so, while working to make sure our impact on the land is light and helps to preserve this site for the benefit of all - goals that I believe we both share.