The Presidio, Its Aging Trees, and the Plan

San Francisco Magazine just published a really fascinating piece about the Presidio and how it’s dealing with a die-off of thousands of trees. The army transformed the windswept military base by planting some 500,000 trees on its grounds between the 1880s and the beginning of the 20th century. As a practical measure, it would set the Presidio apart from civilian San Francisco, keep prodigious amounts of sand from blowing into its buildings, and obscure the base’s artillery.

The trees were too densely planted, and they competed with each other. Many died. But with a huge supply of cheap labor – soldiers – the work went unabated.  In addition to planting trees nearly atop one another, the army selected short-lived species. Monterey cypresses top out at 150 years; Monterey pines at 120. Which means that the thousands and thousands of Monterey pine and Monterey cypress trees that were saplings then are now reaching their declining years more or less simultaneously.

Of the 500,000 trees planted all those years ago, 60,000 trees now remain in the still heavily wooded Presidio. The question is, what to do now about all the unhealthy, stressed-out—and very old—trees, and what will the forest look like going forward.  Fortunately, the Presidio has a plan. To read the entire article, please click here.


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