Trash And Barbecues: 4/20 Celebration Makes Heavy Impact On Golden Gate Park

Ten people were arrested during impromptu marijuana celebrations in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on Sunday for offenses ranging from selling marijuana or opiates to mischief and carrying a gun, police said today.

April 20, or 4/20, typically draws large crowds to the park for a celebration of cannabis. The time 4:20 — a.m. or p.m.—has been associated with smoking marijuana since the 1970s and the date April 20 has become a countercultural holiday celebrating the drug.

San Francisco police Sgt. Danielle Newman said Sunday that shortly after 4:20 p.m., revelers in the park were finishing up “their big smoke-off” as police patrolled the area looking for troublemakers.

Large crowds gathered in a thick white haze in several of the park’s large open areas, including Hippie Hill and Sharon Meadow.

Police said they responded to four medical calls throughout the day—a seizure at Alvord Lake near Haight and Stanyan streets, an overdose at the Sharon Arts Building, a person who suffered an abrasion near the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets and a 16-year-old with a medical problem on Hippie Hill.

Park rangers issued citations for vending, illegal barbecues and amplified sound and advised about 100 people about illegal activities, police said.

Police made a total of four arrests: for selling marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale, another arrest for possession of opiates for sale and one arrest for possession of opiates.

They found two people with loaded or concealed firearms, including one who was also carrying hashish, made a warrant arrest and arrested another person for malicious mischief, Newman said.

Police also issued citations for an open container of alcohol, violations of the city’s sit-lie ordinance, and peddling without a permit, Newman said.

Newman said Sunday that the city would be aggressively targeting people driving under the influence leaving the park and anyone who failed a sobriety test but passed a breathalyzer would be tested for narcotics. Police announced no DUI arrests today, however.

Last year’s celebration attracted about 15,000 people who left a mess that took about $10,000 to clean up, city officials said.

Despite estimated crowds of about the same size this year, the park was left in better condition than last year, though it was still “heavily impacted,” San Francisco Recreation and Park Department spokeswoman Connie Chan said.

She said the city took a more proactive approach in managing the event this year. Though it remains unpermitted, the city put out trash bins and sent a crew of 20 workers out Sunday evening to begin cleanup work.

Cleanup crews have been back in the park since 6 a.m. today and Chan said that they expected to complete work around noon.

Primarily the mess consisted of trash left behind, but she said some people dumped barbecue coals out, damaging the grass.

Chan did not yet have an estimate for the cleanup costs this year.

Scott Morris, Bay City News

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