Presidio trees cut down as residents roar

Defying local resistance, the Presidio Trust chopped down a towering pair of Monterey pine trees Tuesday in the residential park area, under a project that, since last year, has cleared 24 non-native pines and cypresses to make way for six acres of native dune habitat. Amy Donovan, who rents a Presidio Trust home that was shaded by one of the felled pines, helped collect signatures from 20 neighbors who wanted the Trust to spare the condemned trees.

“It’s just upsetting — the whole chain-saw thing, it’s very upsetting,” Donovan said Tuesday as the Pershing Drive trees were being cut down. “These trees did nothing wrong, and these trees are so beautiful.”

Falcons, hawks, cross bills, bluebirds and other songbirds lived among the aging, lichen-covered limbs that thrust bundles of pinecones 30 feet into the sky, according to residents. Donovan said the privacy between her home and her neighbors’ homes would be lost without the trees.

Trust ecologist Mark Frey said shade and moisture from the 50-year-old or younger pines supported invasive species, such as African rice grass, purple velvet grass and cape ivy, which crowded out native plant species, such as coyote brush and mock heather.

Frey said the new dune habitat would become a home for endangered San Francisco Lessingia wildflower, and for California quail, which aren’t endangered, though Frey said fewer than 50 now live in The City.

The sawdust and thick blanket of pine needles left outside the Pershing Drive homes will be replaced with plants grown at the Presidio Native Plant Nursery, according to Frey.

A sprawling, non-native lollipop tree next to the pines was also removed Tuesday. By the evening, the branches of the three trees had been turned into wood chips that will be used as mulch at the Presidio, and the trunks had been removed to be used for lumber or bio-fuel, Presidio Trust spokeswoman Dana Polk said.

Although two more acres of land are due to be restored into native dunes over the next year between Pershing Drive and Battery Caulfield Road, Frey said no more trees need to be cut down.

jupton@examiner.com

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