Last Tuesday the San Francisco Recreation And Park Department held three meetings to discuss Dolores Park, both the current construction schedule and the future of the popular hangout spot. The evening meeting, held at Dolores Park Church, was led by Taylor Emerson of Rec and Park and billed itself as an opportunity to “learn about the capital project, the campaign to keep the park green, and how you can be a part of making Dolores Park great.” The meeting, which spent a predictably lengthy amount of time addressing neighbors’ complaints about garbage, was interesting mainly for reasons other than the detailing of new trash management policies.
In addition to announcing that the north side of the park would reopen to the public late “June-ish,” and that the south side of the park would be closed for roughly twelve months, Emerson took time to make it clear that Rec and Park is not trying to shut the wonderful party that is Dolores Park down. Rather, they are attempting to ensure the park is safe and enjoyable for all—including the vilified IPA drinking crowd. To this end, she said that park rangers patrolling Dolores would focus enforcement on hard alcohol and amplified sound, leaving the hypothetical weed smoking didgeridoo player free to drone on in peace.
What’s more, in a fascinating example of dedication to informed policy making, Emerson detailed an afternoon she spent shadowing Michael—better known as the dreadlocked, machete-wielding coconut and rum dude. Calling him “a very important part of the park,” and “an ambassador,” Emerson explained that by working with Michael to impress upon his clientele the importance of composting spent coconuts, almost 100% of the coconuts he sold that day were properly sorted into the compost dumpster. It is this type of approach—working in collaboration with those who use the park instead of ticketing them—that seems to be the most thoughtful way forward.
Emerson did take time to acknowledge the much-hyped problem of trash in the park. She was quick to address complaints from those in attendance, admitting that some culpability resided with Rec and Park as they had “not provided adequate [trash receptacle] capacity,” both in regards to numbers of cans and the frequency with which they are emptied. Emerson explained that in addition to working with Recology to increase trash capacity (read: get more trash cans and have them emptied more frequently), the Rec and Park Department consulted with Burning Man to devise a new trash management system—specifically, the Eco Pop-Up that debuted in the park a few weeks ago.
The Eco Pop-Up pilot program, which somewhat counterintuitively includes the removal of all but two trash cans from inside the park itself, is scheduled to run on weekends until the end of summer. The pilot program brings large compost and recycling dumpsters to the edge of the park, and includes employees to ensure waste is properly sorted.
Perhaps with the newly increased trash capacity, and the proposed semi-reasonable approach to enforcement, the party in Dolores Park can continue uninterrupted. We may not have to wait much longer than “June-ish” when the brand-new north side opens to find out.
[Bottom Photo: San Franpsycho]