Up on Cripple Creek

Yesterday, we played with the land as she took her first breath of spring.

What better place to celebrate than the newly restored El Polin Springs in San Francisco’s Presidio? After a two year effort by the park trust, involving invasive tree removal, the un-paving of roads and releasing waters that are dancing in the daylight for the first time in over a century, the project is nearing completion. Hillsides are fortified with booms and nets to keep the baby native plants in place, and Willows (Did you know? Willows are native! So lovely!) thrive in a restored wetland. Redemption and recovery…it is possible for this wounded earth.

Eucalyptus and even some Monterey Cypress have been removed to bring back the original plant communities. The area, recently reclaimed from infrastructure the army built in 1906, consists of six habitats…coastal prairie, serpentine grassland, freshwater marsh, willow riparian, coastal scrub and oak woodland. The clever folks involved in the project have had the foresight to leave spaces like the one above available for all kinds of adventures.

(I almost called this post “Dirty Face” for obvious Fernish reasons, as well as for the  blob of unknown substance that was on the lens.)

“I am the Lorax…

…and I scream for the trees.”

El Polin Springs is one of the first of many freshwater sources to be “daylighted” by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Over the next 20 years, many of the city’s creeks and streams will be brought to the surface, released from their underground prison of pipes. The rock bed that El Polin will flow through was originally built in the 1940’s by the Public Works Commission.

The springs will feed vernal ponds, recreating the riparian and marshland habitat. Already, a wise, gray haired lady holds reign over the area. Several other small Willows have been planted upstream. Bringing back native plants creates a magic that I love. Host species attract insects and butterflies, which attract birds, amphibians, reptiles, which attract larger birds and mammals and before you know it…a thriving ecosystem! As we were admiring the willow, a lepidopterist who was sketching nearby exclaimed, “A Mourning Cloak! The harbinger of Spring!”. A large and gorgeous butterfly with electric blue spots on her brown and cream wings circled us, then flew back to hover around her willow home base. I gave thanks for the resiliency of life…health just happens with the right kind of support.

Give it a year and some good rain, and this place will be boomin’.

Look! There’s a native now!

Thank you for all the thoughtful and insightful comments on my last post. I am excited for us all to reclaim this most ancient and basic of traditions. It’s the weekend, and I think a perfect time for family story hour. Maybe during halftime?

Have a good one.


2 thoughts on “Up on Cripple Creek

  1. That’s promising that there is a plan in place to daylight other springs and streams. I don’t know why …but i’m always surprised to find out that people will try and alter the land so much for progress or space. It seems to me that messing with water has got to be the last thing you’d want to do. It’s so precious! I can’t remember if i told you already, but our local school hall and tennis courts were built on top of a stream. They (the local community members who built the school 50 years ago or so, my midwife’s husband for one!) just filled a part of it in with dirt and concreted over it! That stream came up vengefully just about everywhere though, there are springs in people’s garages, and driveways and yards…and there is nothing they can do about it. I love Willows, I assumed they were British born and bred..we have them on the banks of our streams too; definitely not native to NZ though.

    1. i’m with you on that…how have we gotten so out of touch that suppressing or diverting water seems like a good idea? i love that your water in your town has gone rogue.

      i was surprised about the willow too, and don’t know if they are the same or what degree of separation they are from the english ones. i think they are romantic and full of grace. i’m glad you have them in NZ. do you ever spend time or sit under them? xoxo

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