By Matthew Zlatunich
The Presidio is already one of San Francisco’s jewels, an urban national park filled with nature and history. Now — as the National Park Service embarks on replacement of a major road through the park — we have an opportunity to make the Presidio into an even more welcoming place for wildlife.
The NPS is replacing Doyle Drive, the elevated highway leading to the Golden Gate Bridge, with an at-grade roadway hidden from public view by discrete tunnels. This will add 13 acres of new parkland connecting the Main Post of the Presidio to Crissy Field — a blank slate of open space to be shaped into a landscape of National Park quality.
This project offers the potential to expand wetlands, reestablish native plant communities, and enhance wildlife viewing opportunities.
A project website has been established to inform and engage the public as the planning and design work proceeds. The website is loaded with information about the project, scheduled meetings, and public participation including a survey that can be found under the “comment” section.
We encourage Golden Gate Audubon members and other bird lovers to peruse the website and comment via the public survey!
Here are some ideas expressed by GGAS in a previous letter to the Presidio Trust:
- Marsh expansion. We encourage expansion of the Crissy lagoon and marsh to the fullest extent possible. Coastal wetlands of California have been severely reduced by development over the past century and such a prime opportunity to re-establish coastal wetland should be enthusiastically embraced. Consider the potential for a marsh that would completely surround the Crissy Field Center, integrating with the Quartermaster reach to the east and spanning westward to the foot of Battery Blaney.
- Re-establish the coastal bluff. We support the establishment of a coastal bluff that reflects the nature of the historic bluff in form and function. The new bluff should serve to bolster the natural and cultural elements of the surrounding topography.
- Use of local native plants. We support the concept of drawing from the native plant palate of the Presidio to create appropriate plant communities that will represent and enhance the local, historic flora. We encourage the exclusive use of native plants for the entire Presidio Parklands project area. Native plants offer the best food and shelter resources for birds and other wild animals.
- Removal of the Commissary. We support the removal of the non-historic Commissary building (currently housing the Sports Basement store), which would offer a greater potential for wetland expansion and rehabilitation as a natural landscape. Federal lands offer the best potential for wetland rehabilitation nationwide, and every opportunity should be considered a high priority.
- Mason Street as a pedestrian path. We support the conversion of Mason Street from a motorway to a pedestrian/bicycle path. Such a conversion would enhance recreational and educational opportunities and would create a more contiguous pedestrian connection from the Main Post to the Crissy Promenade.
- Ohlone archeological preserve. We encourage the Presidio Trust to preserve and interpret the pre-Columbian archeological resources. Knowledge and understanding of the local pre-Columbian culture would offer park visitors a deeper understanding of the history and evolution of the landscape.
- Scenic Overlook. We support the use of scenic overlooks in keeping with established park design guidelines. We discourage the use of glass panels that could pose collision hazards for birds.
- Boardwalks and post and cable fencing. We support the use of boardwalks, post and cable fencing, and other such methods that serve to protect sensitive habitat areas.
Project planners are seeking public comments now to prepare a conceptual plan, which will be presented to the Presidio Trust Board of Directors on May 14. If you are one of the many Bay Area residents who enjoy the wild side of the Presidio, please invest a few moments to weigh in with your thoughts and ideas from a birder’s perspective!
The web site with information and opportunities to comment is http://newpresidioparklands.org/.
Matthew Zlatunich lives in San Francisco’s Richmond District and is a member of Golden Gate Audubon’s San Francisco Conservation Committee.