Betsy Eddy is a middle of the road kind of person.
Literally. In the middle of Diamond Heights Boulevard tending to a the plantings.
On June 5 she put in a three-hour stint keeping San Francisco beautiful, one block at a time. This time it was between Gold Mine Drive near St. Aidan’s Church and north to Duncan Street at Saint Nicholas Church.
Eddy, who has lived on Farnum Street for 35 years, supervised 12 neighborhood volunteers in the service of filling 36 refuse bags with grass and foxtails along three median islands.
Significantly, this was the first project work party since the onset of COVID-19 sequestration.
“We left the thistle, though,” Eddy told the Glen Park News, “because gold finches like its nectar.”
She took up the mantle from Paul Matalucci, the former Diamond Heights Boulevard Median Project Coordinator. He moved to Hood River, Oregon in June 2020 to fulfill a dream of planting an orchard of rare apple trees.
Never one to allow the grass to grow under her feet, she now finds herself overseeing what she hopes will become monthly work parties to continue an effort that Matalucci began in 2014, but remained dormant during the coronavirus pandemic.
Her mission? To inspire neighbors to replant and maintain islands along Diamond Heights Boulevard between Duncan Street and Berkeley Way.
“The resumed median project will schedule a volunteer workday each month,” with the next work party scheduled for July 10, she said.
Standing near a teepee of trash bags on June 5, Eddy, who is also a columnist for the Glen Park News, watched automobiles pass while volunteers tugged weeds buried in soil hardened by lack of rain.
“When Paul started the project,” she added, “the medians from Berkeley Way to the corner of Duncan were a jumble of dead trees, tall growing shrubbery and brush that obscured sight lines for pedestrians and motorists.”
Up in Oregon, Matalucci and his husband, Tom Osborne now run the Apple Core Farm, where they are establishing an apple orchard with heritage trees developed by early pioneers. This spring, with the help of a Yakima, Washington apple grafter, Matalucci grafted 120 trees representing 11 unique varieties. One of them was the Hewes Crab, considered the best cider apple by Thomas Jefferson who grew it in Virginia.
The botanical scene is a little different along Diamond Heights Boulevard. There, Eddy and the crew looked out at 14 Canary Island pines, purchased by Friends of the Urban Forest and planted by DHBMP volunteers in September 2016.
In the past year, only four of the graceful trees have succumbed to the elements.
The team worked to daylight the hearty survivors, along with drought tolerant plants such as red buck wheat, thanks to the efforts of the Matalucci-Eddy corps of volunteers
Gilbert Chavez is one.
Chavez has lived in the Tenderloin for 15 years, and has been involved in the median project for five years. A congregant of St. Aidan’s for 35 years, Chavez didn’t take long to throw in his lot with Eddy when he learned she’d revived pre-pandemic efforts.
“The good work of the people of Diamond Heights often goes unappreciated, and I wanted to do my part to make the neighborhood safe and beautiful,” he said.
Eddy has long labored to make Diamond Heights a better place. She‘s been the Diamond Heights Community Association president for 12 years, a term that’s included advocating for park renovations at George Christopher and Walter Hass Playgrounds, championing traffic improvements such as crosswalks and cement sidewalks, lobbying for the repair and or replacement of City water pipes along streets such as Diamond Heights Boulevard, Topaz Way and Jade Court, and jawboning with the MTA about retaining the 35 Eureka bus loop down Farnum Street and back up to Addison Street and extending the 35 bus to BART.
The pandemic was not good for the medians. Waist-sized grasses threatened half-a- decade of earlier planting of gold leaf, pink kaboom and a host of succulents along the thoroughfare.
The median project leadership had mapped out a six-year timeline that included installation of plants and gopher baskets, coordination with both PUC and DPW to confirm status of median irrigation and landscape design and finally neighborhood review of the design.
The beautification effort began in the spring of 2014 when Matalucci got a District 8 Greening Grant from Supervisor Scott Wiener that helped him launch Phase 1 of our project. That included replanting of the ‘thin’ median islands between Diamond Street and Berkeley Way.
The DHBMP then received two Community Challenge Grants, the first awarded in 2015 to the tune of $46,000; the second, in 2017, for $40,948.
“The first CCG included funds to hire a landscape architect who created a water use and attractive assortment of California native plants,” Matalucci wrote in an email to the News. “We also worked hard to develop relationships with San Francisco Public Works and were grateful for its partnership.”
The money was earmarked for shrub removal, soil remediation, landscape design, gopher abatement and the purchase of plants. And along the way the project received an anonymous donation from generous residents that allowed the median project to retain the services of a professional garden service to remove weeds from Gold Mine Drive near the shopping center up to Saint Nicholas Church.
Surveying the morning work on June 5, Eddy envisions setting reasonable goals as the median project springs back into action.
“We have no plans for new plants in the immediate future,” she said, eyeing Diamond Heights Boulevard, rife with swaying knee-high grasses propelled by ever-present neighborhood winds. “We need to get a handle on clearing weeds and getting the irrigation system back in operation. We are also waiting for Public Works to repair a city water pipe break at the south entrance to the shopping center.”
And Eddy, after nearly four decades as a community advocate, is stepping back. She relinquished her DHCA presidency one year ago and now shares the office as co-president with Mike Kramer.
Succession planning has taken center stage.
“I am hoping someone with more gardening experience takes on the role of project coordinator,” she revealed.
Fresh from the COVID-19 lockdown that thwarted their efforts, Eddy’s volunteers bagged the last of the encroaching grasses by 11:30. Removing their safety vests, they began reclaiming parked cars and preparing to walk to nearby residences.
Prior to the pandemic volunteers were treated to lunch at St. Aidan’s, but the church is still in lockdown mode, not yet ready to open its doors for social gatherings.
It’s this ongoing effort that keeps the medians looking lovely for everyone.
“The real work is ongoing maintenance and I’m grateful to Betsy for taking up the cause and reenlisting many of our core volunteers to weed and clean the median islands now that it’s safe for people to gather outside again,” Matalucci said.
To take Part on July 10:
Diamond Heights Blvd. Median Project Volunteer Workday Saturday, July 10, 9-12 noon
Please join us to improve the appearance of our median islands along Diamond Heights Blvd. Helping maintain our medians is important because Public Works has indicated they do not have the staff to maintain the area. Public Works is watering the plants and trees until it fixes a broken City water pipe that provides water to the drip irrigation system installed by the Median Project.
The medians are in good shape from Addison St. to Duncan St. for several reasons:
12 volunteers including the ones pictured above filled 36 leaf bags with weeds on one median on June 5. One of the volunteers weed whacked much of the tall grass.
- Anonymous neighborhood residents donated funds to weed the median islands in front of the Shopping Center from Gold Mine Dr. to Duncan St. The Median Project is very thankful for this generous donation. The weeded medians made a huge difference in the appearance of our neighborhood.
- A volunteer weeds the median from Addison St. to Diamond St. and cares for all the geraniums and jade plants on the hillside. Another volunteer turns on the drip irrigation system not affected by the broken City water pipe for this median once per week.
Volunteer Workday Details
Date: Saturday, July 10
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon – helping us even one hour would be terrific!
Location: Meet in front of St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church on Diamond Heights Blvd. at Gold Mine Dr.
Work: Pull weeds on the median islands
Recommended for 12 years and older
No gardening experience required: Kneeling pads, gloves and safety vests will be provided. You may wish to wear masks to avoid breathing in dust and bring your own gloves and weeding tools.
In the future, we may be able to offer lunch for volunteers when St. Aidan’s will be open to groups. On July 10, bathrooms will be available for volunteers in the upper level of the church. Water will be provided.
Please contact Betsy Eddy at email@example.com if you plan to attend.
Have a safe and fun Fourth of July!