An open letter to Paul Simon
Dear Mr. Simon:
I read that you plan to donate proceeds from your performance at Outside Lands to the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department and San Francisco Parks Alliance. Please don’t donate to these organizations. They haven’t shown themselves to be good stewards of our parks. Please donate instead to groups that are actually working to protect and preserve our parks.
San Francisco could have done the right thing, the green thing. We could have been on the leading edge of solutions to climate change with natural grass, using recycled groundwater for irrigation, minimizing light pollution, protecting habitat. We could have been showing the world the way forward. Instead, we replaced seven acres of grass and trees in Golden Gate Park with seven acres of plastic grass and shredded tires. This unnecessary, environmentally damaging project was the work of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) and San Francisco Parks Alliance (SFPA).
In 2014 the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) ran, and San Francisco Parks Alliance (SFPA) supported, a false and misleading campaign to defeat “Proposition H” which would have prohibited artificial turf and night lighting in Golden Gate Park. The campaign poster for the opposing “Proposition I” featured the slogan “Let the Children Play” with a picture of children standing in front of a locked gate when, in fact, it was the SFRPD that put a fence around the field and locked the children out.
Prop. H was put on the ballot because over 10,000 San Francisco residents signed a petition in a grassroots effort to protect Golden Gate Park. “Prop. I” was put on the ballot because seven supervisors were persuaded to do it. “Prop. H” had the support of the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Golden Gate Audubon Society and the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods. These are organizations deserving of your support.
Environmental organizations everywhere are in a campaign to lessen our use of plastics. Why would SFRPD think it in the best interest of the citizens of San Francisco to put seven acres of plastic grass and tire crumb in Golden Gate Park within a hundred yards of Ocean Beach? The residents and the environment deserve better. Even as I write this, the Beach Chalet Soccer Fields are spreading toxic tire crumb into the park, as the accompanying photos show. Even now, the SFRPD has plans to replace grass and dirt in other areas of Golden Gate Park with artificial turf. Our parks are not here to serve the interests of the artificial turf industry.
I urge you also to reconsider your participation in Outside Lands. It is just plain wrong to fence off an area of Golden Gate Park for a week for the benefit of a for-profit corporation even if some benefits accrue to the City. Golden Gate Park belongs to the community and should always be accessible, open and free. It belongs to the people. We pay for it, we maintain it, we use it. Free festivals, like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, open to everyone, are the only festivals that should be held in public parks.