I spent some time recently in the vast playground of my youngest childhood, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Founded in 1870 as an urban oasis back when the city was a much smaller place, the park never fails to dazzle with its beauty and design.
This time, though, among the 25,000 trees that grace the park, I noticed numerous onces that were broken, fallen, or otherwise decrepit. Most of them were Monterey pines, eucalyptus, or cypress. And lo, as it turns out, I’m not the only one to have noticed. There is a large-scale project underway to manage Golden Gate Park’s tree population. The main reason? The trees that were planted a century ago are simply reaching the end of their normal lifespans and dying. Because of their size and location, they are a hazard – several people have been injured and one woman was crushed by falling tree limbs over the past few years.
The work will be carried out with respect to the animals living in the trees, seasonal considerations, and so on. Any trees with active nests will be given a reprieve until nesting season is over, and so on.
We think of animal lifespans, but tree lifespans and end-of-life phases tend not to be on human radar quite as much. The large trees seem to be permanent landmarks more than temporary inhabitants. Most of the trees will be replanted, and other children will grow up under new trees, falling in love with the intoxicating scent of cypress or eucalyptus, watching the swaying dance of those graceful limbs against the northern California sky.