Sutro Dunes blooming like new 

On the wind-swept western side of The City, a 3.3-acre plot of sand dunes that was once destined to be housing has been meticulously planted with native plants in order to restore the site.

Neighborhood groups have transformed the previously barren Outer Richmond site across from Ocean Beach into a parkgoers’ destination — and city officials will be renaming the plot in the near future to reflect the changes.

Sutro Dunes is separated from Ocean Beach by The Great Highway and a parking lot. It connects with sprawling federal parkland that stretches northeast through Lands End to the Golden Gate Bridge. Sutro Dunes is owned by San Francisco but it falls within the maintenance boundaries of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

“Sand dunes are vibrant, moving ecosystems,” said GGNRA spokeswoman Chris Powell. “They move with the wind, so it takes a very particular pallet of native plants to allow them to function in the correct manner.”

The dune plants that now cover the site were grown in a National Park Service nursery at Fort Funston, Powell said.

The restoration of the dunes is a far cry from what was planned for the plot in the 1970s — high-density housing. Residents fought that proposal then, and the land remained open space.

The land was eventually purchased by San Francisco and used briefly as a construction staging site for sewer improvement works, according to Tom Kuhn, member of the Friends of Sutro Park and Coalition to Save Ocean Beach neighborhood groups.

The groups are credited in Board of Supervisors documents with preventing development of the site.

The neighborhood groups contributed to the more than 1,000 hours of volunteer work that helped restore the native habitat, the Board documents show.

“If you go to the site and stand there, it’s amazing — it’s a refuge,” Kuhn said. “It’s a throwback to the way the land was before all this ever-increasing urbanization encroached upon us.”

Supervisor Eric Mar, whose district covers the Richmond, praised the neighborhood groups and described Sutro Dunes as the product of activism and volunteerism.

“It’s one of the most awesome natural places in the whole city — it’s a hidden gem,” Mar said. “We hope it will lead to more beautification — the residents have talked about the steps being improved and making other improvements.”

To reflect the changes to the land, the Board of Supervisors may officially rename the land Sutro Dunes. It’s currently called Parcel 4.

Adolph Sutro, the Outer Richmond landowner after whom many of the area landmarks are named, served as San Francisco’s mayor in the late 1890s. He built the Sutro saltwater baths and surrounding gardens.

Natural beauty

Native vegetation planted at Sutro Dunes:

- American dune grass
- Beach strawberry
- Chamisso lupine
- Coast buckwheat
- Dune grass
- Indian paintbrush
- Sagewort
- San verbena
- Sea pink
- Seaside daisy
- Yarrow

Source: San Francisco Board of Supervisors

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