Protected plant may delay Doyle Drive project

November 18, 2009 6:31:27 PM PST
Anywhere else, the plant might have gone unnoticed, but not in the Bay Area. Someone in the Presidio glanced over and spotted a plant thought to be extinct in the wild, growing near Doyle Drive.

This is it, The Franciscan Manzanita, and because it's so rare, there are concerns the plants' very existence in a construction zone, could delay the project.

The Doyle Drive replacement project has required the clearing of large areas of vegetation and it was because of that, that this plant was revealed. It is a large plant spanning eight feet wide, 12 long, and two feet high. Its exact location is being kept secret.

The plant is believed to be a Franciscan Manzanita, just discovered in the presidio. Until now, it was believed to be extinct in the wild. The last known wild Franciscan was in San Francisco's Laurel Hill Cemetery. Both the plant and the cemetery were removed for tennis courts in 1942.

Problem is, the just discovered, probable Franciscan lies directly in the path of the Doyle Drive replacement project. The $1 billion parkway is scheduled for completion in 2013.

When asked if the plant can be moved so that the project can just go forward, Molly Graham, from the Doyle Drive Project, said "No. I don't believe so. It will likely be relocated. That's my understanding."

Graham says for now, it appears the discovery will not delay construction. A handful of agencies are working together on a plan to save the plant. Graham doesn't know how soon they have to execute that plan before work does start to fall behind.

"The schedule right now is not in jeopardy. I don't have a direct answer. I'm not sure where it is in the construction phasing. I know the construction folks have looked at it. I'm not even sure exactly where the plant is," said Graham.

Tom Parker, Ph.D., is an S.F. State biologist with expertise in Manzanitas. He will be in charge of comparing the DNA of the just-discovered plant, with the DNA of the last-known Laurel Hill Franciscan. Results could take a month.

"Whenever you find something that was thought to be extinct in the wild, it's just incredible. So for a botanist, this is like a super special discovery," said Parker.

He says moving the plant could be a good solution and he's confident it will be protected.

"Undoubtedly, there will be protection, there will be locations, they'll make cuttings, they'll protect it in every way possible," said Parker.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caltrans, Presidio Trust are just a few of the agencies involved in trying to come up with a plan they can all agree on, on how to best proceed with the probable Franciscan Manzanita.


Load Comments