County Parks to 'Thin' Cypress Forest at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Patch file photo
Patch file photo
At a community field meeting Saturday at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, officials with the San Mateo County Parks Department explained their plans for vegetation management involving two projects occurring over a 5-year period, one of which could potentially take down dozens of trees in the Cypress forest.

The purpose of the meeting was to inform the community about each of the project's goals and timeline, walk both sites in the field, and receive public input at the conceptual stage. 

The first project entails habitat enhancement of San Vicente Creek within the Marine Reserve property to remove exotic invasive plants and replant native vegetation.

The second project is management of the Cypress forest at the Marine Reserve bluff to improve public safety and improve forest health of which San Mateo County Parks "has a fast track plan to cut down hundreds of trees at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. They're only giving the public seven days to comment," wrote a spokesperson on the Marine Reserve's community page on Facebook.

County planners say the trees are a "public safety concern" and are worried about "trees falling on people." The Cypress forest management plan is an effort to reduce that liability and keep the public safe, according to county park officials.

However it was suggested during the community field meeting that warning signage about the trees and the fragile eroding bluff might be an alternative solution to cutting down the trees, according to the Marine Reserve Facebook post.

Still, the County tagged all the trees but haven't identified the specific trees they plan to remove so it's unclear to exactly how many trees they plan to remove.

An effort to put the project on hold and ask the County Park Department officials to clearly mark each specific tree they plan to remove is underway, headed up by Moss Beach resident Aimee Luthringer, a representative of AREA29, a citizens advocacy group that works to protect the watershed that flows into the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve which is part of a State Water Quality Protection Area know as Critical Coastal Area 29. 

In a letter with the subject line "County to 'thin' forest at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve," Luthringer writes to concerned parties: 

"San Mateo County Parks Department plans to remove hundreds of trees from the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve ... without adequate public notice and a reasonable opportunity for public input. ... The County is not abiding by their own ordinance which requires that a posted notice be attached to every tree proposed for removal. Removing a large number of trees will complete the destruction of the area's charm, which the County started by replacing the quaint footpath with a wide road. ... A five year phased chainsaw massacre will happen if we don't speak now. ... Please help insure the County does what's best for the trees, plants and wildlife that make their home in the reserve."

She recommends in the letter emailing the Board of Supervisors, County Park Department officials, the Parks Commission, and the Planning Commission and leaving public comment on this issue with San Mateo County Parks Department here.

Brian Ginna January 27, 2014 at 10:50 AM
"headed up by Moss Beach resident Aimee Luthringer, a representative of AREA29, a citizens advocacy group" The so-called "AREA29" is simply Sabrina Brennan thinking she has a "group" interested in her goals. There is no "group" there. She made it up.
Tamara Trejo January 27, 2014 at 11:31 AM
No no no they can NOT cut down the Enchanted Forest.
Deb Wong January 27, 2014 at 05:42 PM
There IS a group of citizens against the tree removal in the Fitzgerald marine Reserve Forest. There are so few trees there already, as there were many cut down to widen the path. We live here in Moss Beach - this is our home, and there is no need for more clear-cutting of this beautiful natural resource. We knew Bob Breen, who was the the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve’s first Supervising Ranger from the Reserve’s founding in 1969 to his retirement in 2004. He spoke of this beloved area, and would be very upset that the San Mateo County Parks Dept. wants to remove more of the trees.
David Vespremi January 27, 2014 at 07:17 PM
Here's my letter to Sam Herzberg and Don Horsley: I don't need to tell you that I care very deeply for the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and this was one of the main reasons for our moving to Moss Beach to raise our children here. I, and many of my fellow neighbors, regrettably were not aware of the meeting this past Saturday during which the plan to thin a substantial number of Cypress trees in the "enchanted forest" overlooked the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach was presented. I'm not sure how this meeting was publicized, but word failed to reach neighbors and community stakeholders. Since learning of the meeting, and the fact that the public is being provided a only a seven day comment period without the benefit of a clear and detailed project scoping analysis, I am requesting that no further action be taken on this until: (1) The public comment period is moved out significantly to allow meaningful public comment on this important issue. (2) A community workshop is scheduled, with the arborist present, and a detailed project scoping document provided to the public beforehand. This meeting should be prominently posted at all entrances to FMR, with notices mailed to adjacent home and land owners, and posted in the Half Moon Bay Review. (3) The County demonstrates that it has been in close communication with the Coastal Commission on this proposal. Thanks, David Vespremi Moss Beach Resident
Deb Wong January 28, 2014 at 08:47 AM
I have gotten some comprehensive emails from several of the county officials about the trees since my comment here yesterday. I've been reading up on the situation, as well. It is true that many of the trees are dead. A forest's way of taking care of this and replenishing itself is through fire. That is nature's way. We are in a drought, so, even on the coast, that might be a possibility. However, cutting away the dead trees and replanting is a way that arboriculturists can replenish the area. I just am not sure about what constitutes "native" vegetation, because very little here is truly native. Cypress, when healthy, thrives here. This is an ongoing issue, and I have been assured by several of the representatives I have communicated with that there will be time and care taken concerning what to do about the state of the Magic Forest. Meanwhile, I am happy that we took so many photos there, and enjoyed the peaceful surroundings while we could.
Liz Taylor January 28, 2014 at 09:17 AM
Dead wood has value in a forest providing nest sites and food (by way of insects) for birds such as woodpeckers, brown creepers, nuthatches, flickers, owls and more. Bats also make use of larger dead trees as roosting sites. Again, this is not so much a tree problem as it is a people problem. Signage advising folks of possible risks is a less draconian approach. Finally, consider the impact that tree removal and so called "improvements" on the land may have on the marine reserve itself. Increased sediment flow in the absence of trees can choke out marine life very quickly.
Deb Wong January 28, 2014 at 09:29 AM
Liz, those are great observations. I hope you can add those to the mails sent to the county reps. Every bit helps, and I am still learning about all of this. My husband and I have done many photo shoots out in that forest, as well as have enjoyed its serene beauty through the years. I would hate to see it go....I just don't know what the right answers are as to what to do to preserve it for future generations.
Liz Taylor January 28, 2014 at 11:21 AM
Rebecca Holland January 28, 2014 at 12:36 PM
Many local artists have painted this forest. I had better hurry before they radically change the enchanting beauty of this special place.
DV January 28, 2014 at 03:21 PM
I just can't imagine having this place "thinned." There have been "dead trees" in it since I moved here in 1990 and no one has been hurt by a falling tree to my knowledge. Just recently, a neighborhood eucalyptus grove in El Granada was "thinned" and left with stacks of wood and a bareness that took away any of the wonderful mysterious feeling that existed prior. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve forest is a mystical setting and needs to remain so. We each need places like this in our lives where we can wander and feel the stillness inside and outside of ourselves… http://www.dianevarner.com/additional_images/gift_of_summer.html


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