Golden Gate Park Trees Named Old-Growth Forest

The Oak Woodlands are first in San Francisco


SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department announced today that Oak Woodlands Natural Area of Golden Gate Park will be formally recognized as part of the Old-Growth Forest Network (OGFN).  The OGFN identifies and helps to protect old and growing forest in throughout the United States.  The dedication will take place on Saturday, March 14, 2015 at Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.  A walk and work party at Oak Woodlands are immediate to follow the dedication. 


“We are grateful for the dedication and support of our friends and volunteers of Oak Woodlands,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec and Park General Manager.  “We are honored that with their support, Oak Woodlands is now recognized as part of the Old-Growth Forest Network, and will continue to be protected for generations to come.”


Through strong volunteer leadership, the Oak Woodlands project has enjoyed one of the most rapidly-increasing rosters of new volunteers. These folks have made huge gains in recovery of the biological diversity of this remarkable area.  Oak Woodlands currently has a strong contingent of community volunteers and a Parks Alliance park partner ‘Friends of Oak Woodlands GG Park, who participate in the regularly scheduled SF Rec and Park Natural Areas Program work parties..  The Oak Woodlands volunteers’ mission also includes developing resources, and advocating for the continuing restoration and stewardship for the Oak Woodlands Natural Area and contained infrastructure, such as the trail network and the historic Horseshoe Courts Arena.


The Oak Woodlands that are located in the north east corner of Golden Gate Park, the coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia, is really one of the very few indigenous trees in San Francisco County that existed here before European colonization. There are 3 major areas where these old-growth coast live oak woodlands occur: Golden Gate Park, Buena Vista Park, and the Presidio. The groves in Golden Gate Park are the largest of the three, and there is documentation that the trees pre-date the development of Golden Gate Park.


When Golden Gate Park was started in 1871 approximately fifty acres of wooded oak areas were left as ‘wilderness.’ The trees, a historic remnant of an earlier landscape, were eventually cut for fuel but they re-sprouted and some of the trees in the woodlands today are from those sprouts. The trees have not yet regained their maximum size. Some of the groves have a scattered over-story of human introduced non-indigenous trees such as the blue gum eucalyptus and the Monterey pine and cypress. Invasive species have changed the nature of the woodland, but restoration efforts are gradually re-introducing some of the supporting understory and bringing it closer to its native condition.


“The California Native Plant Society considers the native Coast Live Oak woodlands to be a valuable part of our heritage and worthy of greater public attention and focus.  For many, the groves offer the potential of a semblance of wilderness in the midst of the City.  It is possible to be among them and to scarcely catch sight or sound of the teeming metropolis only yards away,” said Jake Sigg, President Yerba Buena Chapter, California Native Plant Society.  “Such experiences are to be treasured in our stressful times.”     


“We look forward to adding more California counties to the Network in the future,” said Joan Maloof, OGFN Executive Director.  “We depend on a volunteer in each county to help us identify candidate forests.”


The mission of the Old-Growth Forest Network (OGFN) is to connect people with nature by creating a national network of protected, mature, publically-accessible, native forests. The goal is to preserve at least one forest in every county in the United States that can sustain a forest, estimated to be 2,370 out of a total of 3,140 counties. OGFN’s program works to identify forests for the Network, ensure their protection from logging, and inform people of the forest locations. Founded in 2012 by Joan Maloof, PhD in ecology and professor emeritus, OGFN currently has 38 forests in the Network in 13 states. OGFN also recognizes exceptional forest advocates, educates about the extraordinary ecological benefits of old-growth forests, and speaks out regarding immediate threats to specific ancient forests. Learn more at:




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