ANGEL ISLAND
Michael Ellis

I want to acknowledge the good work of California’s Department of Parks and Recreation; those are the guys in charge of 270 natural, recreational and cultural treasures of our great state. Every time I see the outline of Angel Island now I smile, thinking that there is hope. There are things done by the hand of man that can be undone and the most beautiful island in the middle of San Francisco Bay is living proof of this.

After becoming a park in the late 1960’s the States’s first challenge was dealing with the overpopulation of black tailed deer on the Island. The military and earlier, the native people, had kept the deer in check. But by 1976 they were overrunning the island, harassing tourists for their lunch and clearly something had to be done. After some mistakes and years of many very vocal public hearings the park rangers now regularly cull the animals. This keeps the population viable and healthy.

In 1991 the State began removing the non-native invasive trees from Angel Island, especially the blue gum eucalyptus and Monterey pines. The plan was to restore the oaks, bays and other native plants to the hillsides. No one had ever done a restoration on this scale before. It looked awful to many people at first (not me I hate eukes). There was even a citizen group formed to fight the proposal called POET (preserve our eucalyptus trees). Fortunately science prevailed and the ultimate result is the botanic healing of the island.

In the mid 1950’s the U.S. Army bulldozed 15 feet off the top of the mountain to accommodate a radar tracking station for Nike missiles. And last year all that piled up dirt was bulldozed back on top of the mountain, restoring the top to its former height of 785 feet. This is what makes my heart sing, looking at the silhouette. When we have the will, we can undo what we have done and let the curative power of nature begin.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

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November 5, 2010