More than just scenery at Presidio
SAN FRANCISCO— On a clear, sunny day in early April, Maryann Separovic, a traveler from Melbourne, Australia, had been riding her bike all over San Francisco.
“I’m not a huge biker, but it is a nice way to find your bearings in a new place,” Separovic said.
It was a sunny day in early April, and Separovic had been riding for more than three hours. As she passed a open green area, by the beach, with the clearest view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Separovic plopped down. She re-examined her map, snapped some pictures of herself (an art that she mastered while traveling the globe alone), and enjoyed in the scenery.
|Visitors to the Presidio are attracted by the unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Presidio visitors also enjoy many outdoor activities near the Presidio (Photos by Karunya Krishnan).
“It kind of reminds me of back home,” she said. “You have all this greenery to one side and a walkway by the beach where people can just chill out or do sports.”
Separovic, for example, had no idea she had stumbled upon the Presidio of San Francisco, part of the Goden Gate National Recreation Area.
But this would come as no surprise to Park Ranger Marcus Combs.
Because of its urban location, San Francisco residents flock to the Presidio’s open spaces for outdoor and leisure activities. Many visitors, distracted by its scenic views, overlook its history.
The Presidio was first established as a military outpost in 1776 by Spain. It was taken over by independent Mexico in 1821. In 1848, after the Mexican-American War, California joined the United States and Presidio became a U.S. post.
In 1972, when the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was created, the Presidio was included within its boundaries as a National Historic Site. Still maintained by the military, the public was not encouraged to wander its grounds.
As a result, when the National Park Service took over the Presidio in 1994, the policy changed and managers welcomed the public. But the Presidio was “not in the public consciousness,” Combs explained.
But the park is still evolving and its history distinguishes the Presidio from other parks in the Bay area.
Combs said Presidio is special because of the layering of history that can be found on the grounds.
“Parts of the Presidio can be linked to any part of U.S. history up to the Persian Gulf War,” he said.
The Presidio tells so much history, that fourth graders in the Bay area are required to make a trip.
Retired Navy officer Bill Brown often brings his grandchildren to the Presidio to share his love for California history.
Brown has been a resident of San Francisco for 50 years and his attachment to the park runs deep. Brown and his wife often go on walks at the park’s scenic trails and occasionally attend the park’s programs or museum exhibits.
“The Presidio is a real treasure,” Brown said.
Admission to the Presidio is free of charge for all visitors. In a city as densely populated as San Fransisco, residents take full advantage of the open spaces the Presidio has to offer.
“We have homes, but not much of a backyard,” Brown said. “The Presidio serves as our backyard.”
San Francisco resident Mark Gauger escapes from the pressures of a hectic workweek by windsurfing, biking or jogging several times a week at the Presidio’s Golden Gate Promenade.
“There is no other city where within 15 minutes you can be at an open space where the view is priceless,” he said.
Gauger says that besides the fact that it is “incredibly beautiful,” he enjoys the thrill of windsurfing on the choppy Pacific waters and getting to know the other residents that frequent the spot. He sees the same people at the park every week and has gotten to know them, “at least by face.”
But he especially appreciates the history the Presidio affords. Every time he jogs along the Promenade, Gauger passes by a military graveyard and barracks serving as a reminder of the San Francisco’s deep history.
“It has guarded the entrance to the bay and for years, and we should never forget that,” Gauger said.
Spanning three flags and over 200 years, Ranger Combs said the Presidio was the oldest continuously active post in the nation.
“And the best part is that it’s history is still alive.”
If You Go:
Admission to the Presidio is free of charge and open to the public all year round.
The Visitor Center is located in the Officer’s Club, the oldest building in San Francisco. It offers exhibits and information about activities and programs in the park.
Biking, hiking and strolling, dog walking, kayaking, jogging, surfing and windsurfing.
Popular sites for leisure activities: Golden Gate Promenade, Lover’s Lane, Crissy Field marsh and beach, Baker Beach and various hiking trails.
Popular historical sites: Crissy Field airfield, infantry row, cavalry stables, San Francisco National Cemetery, Fort Scott and the World War II memorial.
For more information about the sites and activities contact the Visitor Center, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 415-561-4323.