By: Shaunice Newton
Our trip to Mountain Lake started off in front of a couple of buildings. As it turns out the buildings used to be military quarters and a hospital back in the day. Now it serves as housing for a variety of people totaling up to approximately 50,000 people residing in the Presidio. It was pretty cool to learn that the people that live in the Presidio are actually helping to fund restoration efforts through the rent they are paying.
Walking passed the buildings we came across a marshland area. It was at this area where we met Jason Lizenby whom is the Biological Science Technician for Mountain Lake. Jason then introduced us to one of his colleagues Bryan Hildebidle who spends his career protecting wetlands and lakes. Together they talked about one of the first restoration projects that went on at the Presidio and showed us before and after images of what the marshland looked like before the restoration and after it. The after image was pretty stunning. It was a healthy beautiful lush green environment that you would have never guess was ever in any type of bad condition.
Our next stop on the trip was an area with sand dunes, this is where we met another colleague of Jason, and his name was Lew Stringer, a restoration ecologist for the Presidio Trust. At the sand dune site Lew had informed us that the sand dune site was actually a restoration site. It was previously used as a graveyard and later on as a dumping ground by the military years ago. The environment was in horrible condition, it was polluted with lead and other things that were making it unhealthy for the flora and fauna that resided in and around it. Lew said that when they first started restoration, they were pulling out many random things, like a fire pole and an escape ladder; and that they also had to tear out concrete because a parking lot was close by the project site. When the Presidio Trust acquired the land, they set out to decontaminate it and restore it to a better condition. I have no idea what this project site had looked like before, but it was now a thriving sand dune community put in place to promote native plant species.
When the project first started, there were four endangered plants on the Presidio that grow nowhere else in the world, three of them are: the Franciscan Manzanita, Dune Gilia, and the San Francisco Lessingia. Some of them were found in San Francisco’s last free flowing creek, Lobos Creek, which previously housed a baseball diamond and a barn, but was also restored back to better conditions. The endangered species were then reintroduced and are now thriving within the restored ecosystem.
Our last stop on the trip was at a beautifully restored lake called Mountain Lake, here we learned about the lake and some of its history. Mountain Lake was originally 30 ft. deep in 1938. Sediment was thrown into it during the construction of the highway right next to it, because of this the lake shrunk to 10 ft. deep. Once all of the restoration on the lake was finished, it was then calculated to be 15 ft. deep.
Mountain Lake was restored from horrible conditions. It was stagnant allowing algae to grow, the highway next to Mountain Lake polluted it for years with all of its runoff, people living around the area would release their unwanted pets in the lake, and the lake also had housed rampant populations of carp and sturgeon, which were not good for the lake or the environment around it. Now the lake is now clear of algae and has an aeration system to both keep a current in the lake and add oxygen to it, it also has a filtration system to filter the runoff from the highway so it will not continuously pollute the lake. After a lengthy battle with the carp and sturgeon in which they were all killed off and removed from the lake, Mountain Lake now houses 3-spine stickleback fish which were introduced in April, Pacific chorus frogs which was introduce in April-May, and 52 Western pond turtles which were introduced in July- September. Overall the trip was very informative and fun. I learned so much and saw adorable Western pond turtles.