In true San Francisco fashion, a layer of fog greeted the grand public opening of Presidio Tunnel Tops, the much-anticipated new national park space spanning the breadth of Presidio Parkway’s two highway tunnels.
But the gray skies and chilly weather did not dampen the celebratory spirit of the day some 30 years in the making.
Tykes and toddlers frolicked on the slides, swings and climbing walls of the already popular Outpost playground and kids of all ages explored the new Presidio Field Station filled with scientific activities for burgeoning ecologists. Pet parents tossed balls with their canine companions. Elders strolled or wheeled through the sinuous lanes designed by James Corner Field Operations, the firm behind New York’s elevated-railroad-turned-park the High Line. And children and adults alike danced playfully to hip-hop beats on Tunnel Tops’ green lawns, populated by twenty- and thirtysomethings picnicking over beer and boxes of takeout from the array of food trucks and stalls.
“We wanted to create a place where everyone in our community felt welcome and [where] everyone could come and enjoy their national park. And you look around and that's what's happening here today. It's incredible,” said Michael Boland, Chief Park Officer of the Presidio Trust, which worked in partnership with the National Park Service and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy to bring the park to life after three years of construction, $98 million in donations to the GGNPC and a $20 million gift from Presidio Trust.
But the inspirational seed for Tunnel Tops goes back about three decades after it became clear that the elevated Doyle Drive, which passed over the Presidio, would not survive another Loma Prieta-size earthquake. Hundreds of hours of community engagement with 10,000 participants helped shape the final design.
“This place was really created for the community by the community,” Boland said. “We just made the park. We gave it to the community to activate, and we see it happening today.”
Boland estimated that some 10,000 to 15,000 people were in attendance at Sunday’s grand opening event, which began with an acknowledgment of the park’s place on Yelamu and Ramaytush Ohlone Indigenous land. He hopes that Tunnel Tops serves as a “gateway” for all San Franciscans to engage with the Presidio and the greater Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
“Hopefully, they'll get inspired to want to come back and come here and spend their lives here because this is their national park,” Boland said.
Pac Heights mom Justine Gonzalez is already planning to make Tunnel Tops part of her family’s regular rotation of parks in SF.
“We'll be back and have barbecues here and watch events like the Blue Angels and all of that,” she said.
Christina Campodonico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org