Mission Greenbelt Zig-Zags Across the Neighborhood

Amber Hasselbring is the instigator of a lovely
effort in San Francisco’s Mission District, aptly named the Mission Greenbelt

The plan is to create a connective corridor of
native plants to serve as wildlife habitat between Dolores Park (Dolores and
19th streets) and Franklin Square Park (Bryant and 17th streets). The first
planting was done along the Mission Pool on 19th street, where over 200 native
plants were enthusiastically given a new home along the sidewalk in front of
the park.

mission_pool_side_view_6154.jpgMission Greenbelt native plant garden at Mission pool, Linda St. at 19th.

Earlier this month, while several dozen local
residents were planting their “Mission Roots” into newly depaved sidewalk
gardens along Harrison and side streets, Amber brought the Greenbelt to the
corner of 22nd and Shotwell, outside the Sangati Center.

With the help of local ornithologist and city repairer

Josiah Clark,

and the friends and community around the
classical Indian art house, the Greenbelt gained a new notch, this one slated
to become a “Garden for Birds.” As the digging began, a native
orange-crowned warbler made an appearance across the street, as if to welcome
and encourage the effort. The expectation is that coffeeberry, hummingbird sage, native grasses and wildflowers, and the common
ceanothus will attract a great diversity of insect and bird life, while the
spiky plants will deter the nearby students of Cesar Chavez elementary school
from doing too much damage to the streetside garden. (The students have their
own small garden on Shotwell a short distance south of this spot.)

chavez_school_garden_w_fence_5979.jpgCesar Chavez School Garden

I asked Amber about the circuitous pattern established by
a garden at 22nd and Shotwell as a midpoint between the two parks that are the
anchors of the Greenbelt, and she confessed: “I’m willing to let the Greenbelt
determine itself… We’re just doing them wherever we have willing and excited
people who are ready to take care of them… Originally I wanted to do [the
Greenbelt along] Mission Creek, but I realized that Mission Creek also
meandered, it popped up where the sand dunes weren’t.”

shotwell_sangati_garden_for_birds_6136.jpgGarden for the Birds getting its initial depaving, 22nd and Shotwell.

When queried on her fantasy for how the Mission Greenbelt
would be used in five years, Amber had this to say:

“In an urban place, it’s really about people, making
people aware that they’re just part of this whole environment, and that we’re
along a flyway. We’re a peninsula and we have a lot of birds flying through. We
need to be aware that there are many more species here than just us. The bees,
for example: we can plant plants that will boost the bee population;
butterflies—we’ve lost a ton of them in the last fifty years. The more plants
that they’ll lay their eggs on and eat, the better off we’ll be. It’s just all
the small things. Giving people a chance to be aware of them give us a better
chance to work together.”

The ambiguousness of “working together” is embedded in
the Greenbelt concept, because only humans can now choose to design and
implement a corridor for other species to share this space we call San
Francisco. But our ultimate goal is to reconnect to the simple truth that we,
too, are natural beings, and without a dense web of biodiversity our own
survival is at stake. Thankfully, organizers like Amber Hasselbring, working
with hundreds of San Franciscans, are beginning to reshape the city
in pursuit of a real intelligent design!

amber_pickaxes_the_dirt_5988.jpgAmber Hasselbring digs the garden on Shotwell.


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