SAN FRANCISCO – The men and women whose gardening skills have made San Francisco’s parks among the nation’s best were honored recently at the 10th Annual William Hammond Hall Awards.
In partnership with the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 261, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission and Department hosted the ceremony Thursday at the McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park. The awards recognize the top gardening and horticulture professionals of the Recreation and Park Department who take pride in their work and enjoy providing well maintained parks for all who use them. This year’s honors were presented by San Francisco Supervisors Jane Kim and Rafael Mandelman.
Governor-Elect Gavin Newsom said he was continually impressed by the commitment of those who maintain San Francisco’s parks.
“I’m saying it because I believe it,” said Newsom. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of the City gardeners, I know how hard they work, how much they care, and I respect the work they do.”
Mayor London Breed said the work is integral to making San Francisco a livable city for everyone.
“The dedication and hard work of our city gardeners, arborists, park supervisors, and apprentices keep our parks clean and safe, and allow San Franciscans of all ages to enjoy these important community spaces,” Breed said.
“People have begun to recognize that being a city gardener is an honorable occupation as well as a calling,” said Oscar de la Torre, vice president of the Laborers International Union of North America. “Their collective strength, expertise and commitment to our city and the citizens we serve is unmatched. To us, they are heroes.”
San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission President Mark Buell congratulated the awardees on their “extraordinary excellence and dedication”
The award is named for William Hammond Hall, a civil engineer and a visionary who designed Golden Gate Park and became the city’s first park superintendent in the 1870s. Tasked with transforming the sandy, windswept dunes of the “outside lands” into a living, vibrant landscape, Hall constructed a destination of warmth, repose and enlivenment for San Francisco citizens in Golden Gate Park.
“Our gardeners’ jobs are among the most challenging in the city. But like William Hammond Hall, who was often told that his job of building a park on sand dunes was impossible, they have shown great commitment, dedication, and ingenuity in getting the job done,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. “We couldn’t be prouder to work with such a great group of men and women.”
Today, the City’s gardeners carry on Hall’s legacy, implementing his vision of gardens and greenways across San Francisco. In the past decade alone, they planted thousands of new trees and propagated tens of thousands of native plants and exotic flowers. At the same time, the Department sustained a 40 percent reduction in water use for landscape maintenance since 2013. In the biennial city survey from the Office of the Controller, residents also graded the quality of park landscapes higher than nearly every other San Francisco amenity – with a B+.
Dozens of gardening professionals with SF Rec and Park are also Bay-Friendly Certified through ReScape California, meaning they implement landscape maintenance practices that conserve water, reduce waste and pollution, and provide many other benefits for communities and the environment.
In 2010, the Department developed a Gardener Apprenticeship program, with the help of Laborers Local 261, to provide a pathway for San Franciscans into gardening jobs with the City. On-the-job training during the two-to-three year program teaches participants proper mowing, weeding, pruning, digging, planting and controlling pests. Ultimately, the program gives apprentices the minimum qualification needed to apply for permanent gardening jobs with the City.
Today, the Recreation and Park Department stewards more than 220 parks, playgrounds, and open spaces, such as the Marina Yacht Harbor, the San Francisco Zoo, and the Lake Merced Complex as well as two outside the city limits—Sharp Park in Pacifica and Camp Mather in the high Sierras.
The Award was presented to the following gardeners for their outstanding work in keeping San Francisco Parks clean and beautiful: Zac Bron, John Demery, Ryan Donovan, Lauren Doyle Kerins, Liz Hui, Isao Kaji, Paul Naughton, Stephanie Roetken, Aida Teklu, Alexandra Weaver, David Williams, and Chris Womack.