With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to sound alarm bells, Recreation and Park administrators are cautiously returning to some semblance of normal indoor programming and outdoor habitat restoration at Glen Canyon Park.
On September 7, the Glen Canyon Recreation Center and other City recreation centers will be opening for fall programming. Glen Canyon Recreation Center will be open Tuesday – Friday hours 10 a.m. to 8 a.m. and Saturday hours 9 to 6 p.m.
With an eye toward public safety, though, there will be fewer programs than during pre-pandemic days.
“This was by design, as we are very aware we are still in a health emergency,” Tamara Aparton Rec & Park Public Affairs spokesperson emailed the Glen Park News on August 25. “Our pace is safe, sane and strategic.”
Rec and Park suspended all regular indoor programming on March 13, 2020 due to COVID. (For a reminder of what it was like, check out their press releases from the last year and a half here. https://sfrecpark.org/AlertCenter.aspx?AID=COVID19-Update-Emergency-Child-Care-Cent-10)
Aparton went on to elaborate.
“When planning, we prioritized programs that were popular, could be done outdoors and are low contact.”
On August 11 Rec and Park employee Toby Wiley sat at a picnic table near the children’s playground. Within view, kids glided down slides and frolicked in deep center field on a vacant baseball diamond. All were socially distanced.
Wiley is the supervisor at Glen Canyon Park, as well as Upper Noe and Eureka Playgrounds, and for years has overseen Silver Tree Summer Camp. Beginning in early September he’s being reassigned to the Tenderloin but will continue at Silver Tree.
The gymnasium’s indoor climbing wall backed where he sat. He hopes the indoor programming he’s mapped out before his departure will be followed by his successor, who is being transferred from St. Mary’s Playground.
“We’re starting off small,” Wiley said, knowing plans can change daily. “Matters may go sideways again.”
Wiley’s referenced the resumption of gymnasium programming that until January 2020 attracted hundreds of recreational users a week. Now the Delta variant is prompting reminders of the three earlier coronavirus surges that may necessitate programmatic pivots on the part of recreation leadership and staff.
Incrementally, however, the indoor facility will witness a reprise of popular activities suspended because of the unprecedented 18-month scourge.
“We are slowly resuming drop-in basketball and a return of popular pickleball,” Wiley said. “The rock-climbing wall, too.”
City protocols will continue strictly being observed and the highly anticipated program reboot will see adherence to earlier mask directives and a vaccine mandate that began on August 20.
“We’re starting up our Zumba health and wellness classes,” Wiley offered, as a dog walker trailed behind a leashed dog.
“We are not offering our usual drop-in tiny tots play, since that involved 50 or so children in a room,” weighed in Tamara Aparton. “It’s just not safe.”
Nevertheless, Aparton emphasized that with registration being a requirement the Glen Canyon Rec Center will offer flag football (8 – 14-year-old), motor movement (one program for kids 4-6 years old) and another for kids 7- to 11-years-old. Not to be left out, adults can participate in co-ed beginning volleyball.
“Proof of vaccination is a requirement,” Toby Wiley emphasized.
Like a comprehensive public high school, Glen Canyon Park offers something for everyone. While the gymnasium was shuttered during the pandemic, the RPD’s Natural Area Program, now called the Natural Resource Division, furloughed Friends of Glen Canyon Park volunteers. On July 17 and again on August 21 long time volunteers were called back into service. Used to working twice a week restoring riparian and hillside habitat, the core group of Glen Park neighbors was eager to resume pulling mustard, radish and thistle, pruning Himalayan blackberry, and planting young shrubs nurtured in Golden Gate Park nurseries.
Now the NRD work parties will convene only on the third Saturday of each month beginning at 9:30 a.m. and lasting until noon. NRD cautions volunteers to mask up, bring work gloves, wear study closed-toed shoes and be prepared to negotiate steep slopes that house scrub and grassland communities. Volunteers are instructed to meet at the end of Alms Road, a five-minute walk north of the Glen Canyon Recreation Center.
Which is what occurred on August 21 when half a dozen volunteers were greeted by three NRD gardeners. Because of poor air quality due to Northern California fires the day’s activities were cancelled at the last moment.
The next work party is set for Saturday, September 18. (To sign up volunteers can register at the link provided at the end of this article.)
“The Natural Resource Division is adapting and trying new approaches to restoration throughout San Francisco’s numerous natural areas such as Glen Canyon,” Chief Natural Resource Specialist Christopher Campbell emailed the Glen Park News on August 23. For the first time it plans to work with the California Native Plant Society for an entire month in one park.
Glen Canyon Park is the kickoff of this one-month collaboration.
Through September, every Wednesday from 12 noon to 2:30 p.m. NRD will be partnering with CNPS, which has been working with NRD for 30 years in natural areas improving wildlife habitat. Past restoration projects have been held in some of San Francisco’s hidden areas with wonderful views and a diverse assemblage of plants.
Anyone 12 years and older can sign up after August 26. To register to volunteer, click here.