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Stern Grove’s $4 million mud cleanup is underway

Stern Grove’s $4 million mud cleanup is underway
Image: @sterngrovefest via Twitter
By Joe Kukura - Published on September 13, 2021.

A freak water main accident on August 25 sunk the final concert of the Stern Grove Festival 2021 season. But the losses are more catastrophic. Dozens of eucalyptus trees will have to be cut down and cleared, 56 planned events (mostly weddings) had to be cancelled or moved, and most disturbingly, the entire 2022 Stern Grove Festival season may still be cancelled. That’s just the beginning of the toll, as the Chronicle reports on the $4 million Stern Grove flood repair efforts that begin in earnest this week.

If you’ve ever sat “in the trees” at a Stern Grove concert, you know the stage is at the bottom of a steep hill. That's not good when flash floods occur.

“It’s a perfect storm,” Stern Grove Festival executive director Bob Fiedler told the Chronicle. “We are 150 feet down from street level, a perfect setting for a tremendous amount of erosion damage.”


Just like with tornadoes, this was a disaster wherein certain components to the park suffered terrible damage, while other components got off curiously scot-free. Consider the stage and its sound equipment, which suffered almost no damage at all. In fact, much of the sound gear was hauled off, still fully functioning, and was used at the BottleRock Music Festival on Labor Day Weekend. 

But the natural features of the park were not so lucky. According to KTVU, Rec and Parks estimates that “about 50” large eucalyptus trees have had their roots badly compromised, and some number of them will have to be removed. Soil stabilization figures to be a nightmare on the steep hill, and further damage is not unexpected. Nearly the entire meadow will need its grass reseeded.

And there is a significant cost to the Stern Grove Festival itself. The park repair is currently tabbed at $4 million, which will be paid by the SF Public Utilities Commission, so no worries there. But the Too $hort and Tower of Power show cancelled was the festival’s “Big Picnic,” a fundraiser that annually brings in around $100,000. That’s now all a wash, and the festival is asking fans’ help to make up the difference. 

“Our hope is to come back stronger than ever with an even better Stern Grove Festival experience,” the Stern Grove Festival says on its donation request page. “A donation today not only can help us mitigate our immediate financial losses, it can help us improve for the future.”