It may look like a garden of colored flags but in fact it’s a meadow-in-the-making. On Saturday, January 15, about 20 volunteers planted more than 400 native grass plants on the Glen Park Greenway between Brompton and Lippard Avenues. These are the backbone of what will grow to become Glen Park’s Native Meadow.
We built the plan for the Native Meadow with the help of several community members who answered our call to join in the planning process last September. We knew that we wanted to create a functioning ecosystem rather than just an attractive landscape. We wanted to design our Greenway to give us the environmental benefits that only nature can provide. So we asked our group of citizen planners to tell us which ecosystem services they wanted the Greenway to give us. They told us they wanted a landscape that provides a place for all sorts of creatures to thrive – from mushrooms to pollinators, other insects and birds and all sorts of small animals. They also called for a landscape that retains water, sequesters carbon, and builds healthy soil. Responding to these requests is surprisingly easy as a California Native Meadow will give us all of them and more!
Our citizen planners also want the Native Meadow to educate us about the way that the environment supports itself and benefits us. And they want the Greenway to look good. We expect that the meadow will look better every month as the plants gradually grow up, and we know that it will take a couple of years for it to be a beautiful fully functioning ecosystem.
One more thing about these grasses: these are not the grasses with roots a few inches long that can be cut and rolled up as turf and unrolled wherever you want a lawn. These grasses are native California bunch grasses that can grow to be up to five feet tall and as much as three feet across. Although the leaves and stems above ground are impressive, the stand-out feature of these plants is their root systems. Their roots go down as far as six feet underground. Whereas many types of grass die each summer and are replaced by new plants each year, these grasses let their foliage dry out completely during the summer and retreat into their root systems where they survive the drought of summer and quickly revive as soon as the rains arrive. Their root systems also provide pathways for rainwater to percolate deep into the ground so that less water runs off into our sewer system during storms. Another benefit that we can’t see or feel, but that is very important for us, is that these grasses capture prodigious amounts of carbon and so are a simple and effective way to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
Many Glen Park community members have put in many hours and have dug deep into their pockets to pay for the planning, preparing and planting of these young and fragile grass plants. Please do your best to leave them undisturbed by our feet or the feet of our pets while the grasses get established.
If you enjoy the Greenway’s Native Meadow please remember the generosity of SF Public Works that has allowed our community to use the Greenway for this Native Meadow, and those community members who donated more than $50,000 to fund the Native Meadow project. Remember also the energy and eagerness of our many volunteers who prepared the site, planted the grasses, and are already caring for them as they grow. Also, of huge importance, is the contribution of Gerry Knezevich of the California Native Plant Society who lovingly grew every single one of those grass plants from a seed and gave them all to Glen Park.