Candlestick Point Eco-Stewards

For 20 years now I’ve been volunteering for groups that do eco-restoration, and lately I’ve decided to go beyond volunteering and write about the work of others, to spread the word about intriguing restoration projects wherever I find them.

And last week that was southeast San Francisco, and Candlestick Point Eco-Stewards (CPE). A project of Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ), Candlestick Point Eco-Stewards are working to restore the ecology of Candlestick Point State Recreation Area (California’s first urban park, founded in 1979), with an eye toward fostering community and giving families in that community a beautiful place to hang out, have picnics and barbecue, and learn about native plants and animals.

Last Saturday I met Anthony Khalil at the Candlestick Point ranger office, which is north of the picnic areas and south of Yosemite Canal. Here is a courtyard between the ranger building and the community garden.

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area courtyard at HQ, August 2014

Anthony has been with LEJ for more than ten years, and he emphasized that CPE sprang from the southeast San Francisco community surrounding Candlestick Stadium. LEJ and California State Parks recently garnered a $1 million grant from California’s Strategic Growth Council. That money will help to expand the community garden pictured below and teach more young people about restoring habitats at Candlestick. (You can find more about the park’s history on the Candlestick Point Eco-Stewards’ website.)

Anthony and I and three local kids whom CPE pays to help with its restoration work got to work around 11 am. Through CPE, these kids have gained years of experience working with native plants like the ones shown here in the native plant nursery.

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area native plant nursery at HQ, August 2014

I was grateful for their expertise. The two young women and I transplanted wild strawberry rootlings into flats filled with gravel, while Anthony and the young man went off to move tables into the new area for the native plant nursery. Next we pried purple needle grass seedlings (California’s state grass) out of their soil flat and lowered their long roots into tubes like these.

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area native plant nursery at HQ, purple needle grass and others, August 2014

We used the green chopstick below —or “dibbler,” as Anthony jokingly called it—to loosen up the soil and guide the roots into their new homes.

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, native plant nursery, plant ago planting, at HQ, August 2014

Later I transplanted Plantago, or plantain (Wikipedia calls it a fleawort), a local succulent that has the same name as the plant that produces the fruit we like to eat and looks like thick curly grass, pale green. The transplants on this side of the white lid are Plantago; some yarrow is growing in the top right of the picture.

Toward the end of the workday, mid-afternoon, a few gardeners showed up to work in their plots (below, with a view of the bay beyond them), and I met Patrick, who has been with LEJ a few years longer than Anthony. While I transplanted Plantago, Anthony helped the three interns finish the needle grass. Then they watered the transplants, cleaned off the table we were using, and moved it to the new nursery area.

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area community garden at HQ, August 2014

Anthony gave me a brochure for the state recreation area (SRA), and I went to explore. Near Yosemite Canal I found a low-lying area mostly planted and watered by an irrigation system. I was not familiar with the plants I saw there, and there didn’t seem to be a lot of birds around, so I drove a few blocks south to the main parking lot and started checking out the rest of Candlestick Point. The southern part of the SRA is opposite the stadium.

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, view of Candlestick Stadium, August 2014

On my walk, I saw huge wild fennel plants with yellow flowers. If you follow the path below to the right, it leads to several sheltered picnic areas.

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, wild fennel plant with cormorant on SF Bay, August 2014

Birds included a pelagic cormorant, a Brandt’s cormorant (I think), Western gulls and other gulls, and barn swallows.

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, view of San Francisco Bay, August 2014

I want to find a place like Candlestick where I can be involved for a long time and learn all about planting techniques. I really like doing this nursery work.