Adding insult to injury: Rec & Park’s imposter mini door in Golden Gate Park

The original door on the left (Photo: Erica Reh); and the new one on the right (Photo: Tony Perry)

As you may have heard, it was Rec & Park that was responsible for removing the lovely and whimsical fairy / elf / squirrel door from the base of the tree in Golden Gate Park. You know, the one that got local, national and even international media attention

It disappeared on Tuesday without any explanation but after outcry from residents (and heartbroken visitors who wandered aimlessly around the concourse looking for it), Rec & Park put it back.

But there’s a catch – what they put back is not the ORIGINAL door. Check out the beautifully crafted original one on the left in the above photo – then check out its inferior cousin on the right. Boo. Hiss.

Rec & Park, despite telling local media that they had no plans to remove it, did just that. They claimed that the tree, which had small screws attaching two very small hinges to the tree, were damaging the tree.

Get a load of the hinge on the new door! That looks a little more substantial to us… And why not just put the original back?

This is all for naught anyway, as Rec & Park told the Chronicle that they will remove it forever soon.

“Our well-intended and professional staff removed the door, as it is our policy to remove anything bolted to trees,” Rec and Parks spokeswoman Sarah Ballard said in a statement to the Chronicle.

We think the elf living in there probably muttered something like “&$@%# hogwash!” upon hearing the news.

Thank goodness President Obama didn’t try to stop by and see it last night. Now THAT would have been embarrassing!

Sarah B.

Photo by Tony Perry


  1. I agree, they’re probably to embarrassed to admit they chucked it. Lord this is a travesty. Forget the Pied Piper. I hope there is as much of an outcry over this as the Palace hotel people got for taking down that painting! Shameful.

  2. Who made the new door, then? Seems like they’d have to have used the original as a template.

  3. I wonder how many tax dollars were spent removing the door, them paying union carpenters to measure and make the sad replacement?

  4. As I said before, sooo typical of SF government employees.

  5. How about they spend more time clearing the trails and park of needles, druggies and human feces, than worry about a little door doing absolutely NO damage.

  6. The human craftsmanship and attention to detail enhanced the innocent, elf-like energy of the magical door . . . opening into emptiness and the heart of the tree.

  7. Does anyone know who “helped” the elves construct the first door?

  8. My first thought is that they damaged the original door when taking it down. But just going by eye the shape does look exactly the same so, like Alais, I wonder did they use the first one as a template? I understand they can take measurements but it looks like a duplicate. The hinge is bigger and looks like it would cause more damange in comparison to the first beautiful magical door than the tiny hinges. The first door had beauty, charm and magic. This new door does not.

    i don’t understand why they should go through so much trouble to make a new door and put it back up when they are planning to take it down again anyway. None of this make sense.

    I wish the maker of the first door would come forward so I could hire him or her to make a beautiful door for a tree on my property. I don’t own property but when I do I want a door on one of the trees.

  9. Speaking of damaging trees…look at the original, near the hinges. NO grooves. Look at the imposter door: Grooves where there were none before! Oops.

  10. @BigHeart – Wow, you’re absolutely right. They took more OUT of the tree to accommodate the imposter door. They crazy.

    Sarah B.

  11. Yup that new door is kludge (and certainly more damaging to the tree than the original).
    I don’t know why this makes me so angry, I know its just a little door.

  12. Nick Pagoualatos from Eric Mar’s office here. I spoke with Sarah Ballard from Rec Park who assured me that the the replacement door will remain in place unless it becomes apparent that it is injuring the tree. According to Sarah, the original door was removed because the bolts attaching it to the tree were hitting the roots and the fnish was toxic to the tree.

    She acknowledges that the community should have been notified before any action was taken.

  13. Sarah Ballard’s comments (from Rec Park) sound like BS, and an utterly lame attempt at PR.
    The tiny screws (not bolts) on the original were, as has been noted above, much less invasive than what’s on the new door. (Tree roots are also a bit tougher than Rec Park is giving them credit for).
    I’m not an expert on toxic varnishes; but the old door barely touched the tree; I assume the varnish was dry; looked like the kind of finish that would be on a fine dining room table… like the kind we eat near, place our elbows on etc… that toxic?

  14. Bring back the real door! Sarah Ballard should be ashamed of herself for spouting that nonsense. The replacement door does not have the same magic. The whole thing stinks.

  15. Holy sh*t, the replaced door is ugly as heck!!! The hinge looks massive, how is that helping the tree? What some bull excuses, Sarah Ballard. I thinks he should be ashamed.

    Why don’t you Park and Rec spend more time worrying about graffiti on the statue in front of the Science Museum than removing something cute like this.

    Bureaucracy and people wasting our tax dollars!

  16. RPD does it again. Do these people sit on their brains? The original door was a piece of art and should have been left in place. And since when does RPD care about toxins??? These are the same concerned folks who are planning to build artificial turf soccer fields at the Beach Chalet covered with tons of ground up toxic rubber tires that will get in a kid’seyes, ears, nose and throat. If RPD cares so much about a little varnish, then they should put their money where their mouth is and stop their poisonous project at the Beach Chalet.

  17. Park N’ Rec are a bunch of soulless, incompetent bureaucrats, who would destroy an enchanting little door, which cost nothing to them but brought joy to all, and rather sell the use of the park to corporations who bring in hundreds of thousands to trample meadows to death. BOOO!!!

  18. It’s little things like this that add a magic to our community. It makes us smile. We can visit and laugh or show our children and friends. It’s silly, but gives us a break from the usual sort of San Francisco story. It opens up another opportunity for conversation, particularly with kids. Oh, how the elves made the door, etc. And then the nasty soulless bureaucrats came along and chopped down the forest. OK, just took away the door and put up a poor facsimile that does exactly what *they* complain the original version could have done… It’s a shame. Think outside the box people and make our home a better place for everyone.

  19. Haven’t been following closely as I should have..thought the ‘fairy tale’ story of the great ORIGINAL wonderful Californian who’d built the door had its happy ever after ..I’m on other side of US,in jaded SFLa,had a lil back surgery,check in to see THIS mess?? Really??What law/statute/wigged-out rule says you’ve got to take some whimsical unifying door out, cheapen it and replace it with crap? Anyone can do that , I’m livin here..Expected LOTS more outta YOU ,California,I mean,cats n dogs ,grandmas n geeks, EVERYBODY plays together , been there ,done that,enjoyed it,,,y’all can do better!!! Peace/Luvs!!

  20. That safe “green” varnish on the replacement will be gone after this weekend’s rain. A proper way to make this would have been to construct a door frame that fits the hole, then attach hinges made of a real metal, not a micron of “brass” over toxic pot metal.

    Had the media not been alerted to this delight, the gardener would likely ignored the addition in his/her zone and gone about business as usual. Once it received attention, management (many without landscaping or botanical experience and none an Arborist, licensed or attending a class) got involved.

    No different really than what happened to the parking meter planters on Clement. All must be approved by the Politburo, produced by approved vendors at higher cost, and standardized, but have no affiliation with a chain store.

  21. You think the original door with smaller screws than the replacement door and harmless dried finish is damaging to the tree? Give me a break! Sarah Ballard and Eric Mar clearly think the Richmond district residents (and voters) are fools. That we will believe everything that they say. Typical politician and city employee lording over us “stupid” people who they are supposed to serve. Ballard should be fired. Park & Rec should clean up the homeless problem in GG Park and try and prevent the once a year murder there too. Eric Mar should do a lot more than banning Happy Meals. Have you seen the condition of our streets? Crime is up also. And what does Mar do? have a “Coffee with Eric” meeting during the workday when the educated of his constituents can’t make it because they have jobs to go to. Disgusting.

  22. Yes – being on the web – this does get international coverage. It reinforces my belief that government bureaucracies everywhere have lost the plot – making themselves mean-spirited slaves of often pathetic rules and legislature instead of being what they are – PUBLIC SERVANTS. How pathetic that they tried to excuse their behaviour by implying the original door was bad for the tree. That they expected the public to believe that is almost incredible.

  23. Oh! That ‘replacement’ door looks like CRAP and so does the bulky new hinge. The absurdity of taking the beautiful door down in the first place, and then later replacing it with this crappy one is just… well… absurd. Sad.

  24. Nice article on sfgate right now about the maker of the door.

  25. Ah! Kind of a bummer that we know the people behind the door. It was a fun mystery.

  26. Left wing green freaks and left wing bureaucrats run amok…

    I am sure all these escapades have cost the Taxpayer hundreds, perhaps thousands…

  27. This had to degrade into a political tirade. Buracracies, liberals, green, blah blah blah. My theory is the little Gnome (let’s call him Woody for fun) just moved away after everyone started poking their hands into his little living room, and he took his door with him. Then the Parks Dept went into damage control and put that shoddy, Ikea replacement in. People wreck everything.

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