South San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department Receives Helen Putnam Award for Excellence in Planning and Environmental Quality

South San Francisco, CA October 1, 2021 Press Release

City of South San Francisco Receives Prestigious Award from the League of California Cities


Balancing resident’s and visitor’s love of Sign Hill Park, with the protection of two federally endangered butterflies and a variety of rare wildflowers, is no easy task. “The affection for the park presents challenges to the native flora and fauna by way of introducing invasive species and habitat degradation,” says South San Francisco Parks and Recreation Director and Assistant City Manager Sharon Ranals. But, thanks to more than 230 volunteers and our City Parks Division staff led by Joshua Richardson, the Parks Division created a restoration program, dubbed “Sign Hill Stewards,” to start reversing the invasive encroachment, preserve the grasslands and endangered species, and re-engage citizens with Sign Hill. Due to these efforts, the preservation of Sign Hill Park and our endangered species continue to live on, thanks to a San Mateo County Measure K grant match for the City that helped provide additional funding.


“Sign Hill is an iconic symbol of South San Francisco, but it is also a valuable biological resource in need of protection and rehabilitation,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine. “The City’s innovative, volunteer-based approach to improving and protecting this unique natural asset is a model for conservation.”


The League of California Cities agrees and has awarded this innovative approach the 2021 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence. The Helen Putnam Award for Excellence recognizes outstanding achievements made by California’s 482 cities and promotes innovative solutions by city governments. The League received 125 award submissions and chose just 11 winning cities.
“We’re honored to be one of the 11 cities receiving this prestigious award, but even more proud of the work our Parks and Recreation Department has done with the creation of our Sign Hill Stewards, which we should consider renaming ‘Sign Hill Saints’,” said South San Francisco Mayor Mark Addiego. “The work these volunteers have done to preserve our Sign Hill Park is astounding in just two years worth of work.”
A good example of the success of this program is back in June, while hosting a volunteer event, City staff recorded a sighting of a callippe silverspot butterfly on Sign Hill for the first time in 40 years, which is no doubt a result of the restoration efforts.
In addition, after just over a year of restoration work, staff began monitoring Sign Hill’s Mission blue butterfly population through egg surveys with the help of a student from the City College of San Francisco, and egg counts were found to be trending upward. This data will help the City track the mission blue population from year to year.
Lastly, as a result of her work for leading this project, city staff member and National Resource Specialist, Emma Lewis, was awarded the “Young Leader” award by Bay Nature Magazine.
“We’re lucky to have Emma on our staff and the impact she has had, along with our Natural Resource Aide, Daniel Simoni, is profound. Native planting survival rates are averaging 75 percent, the Mission blue butterfly counts are increasing, and we’re seeing larger native blooms appearing in managed areas, it’s obvious that Sign Hill Stewards has made a difference on Sign Hill,” said Ranals.
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