Walt Disney Family Museum Among Buildings In This Popular Public Space
And the first of October marks its 25th year as a national park. The one-time military installation – whose founding pre-dates that of San Francisco – then began its transformation into one of the country’s most visited national park sites.
The Presidio’s future wasn’t always certain. Though slated to join the national park system should the Army ever leave, thanks to 1972 legislation by U.S. Senator Philip Burton creating the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, elected officials and the community were stunned when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended in 1988 that the Army post be decommissioned, lowering its flag for good.
The Presidio formally transferred to the national park system a ceremony on October 1, 1994. To provide for a successful park transformation, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, civic and environmental leaders, and the nonprofit Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy mobilized community and bipartisan Congressional support for a bold idea.
They created a partnership-based approach to managing and funding the Presidio that would create a nimble new federal agency to steward the Presidio in collaboration with the NPS, and with the support of the Parks Conservancy. Congress created the Presidio Trust in 1996 and required that the agency operate without taxpayer support by 2013.
One of America’s Most Visited National Park Sites
A quarter-century later, this tri-agency partnership, with the addition of volunteer and philanthropic support, has transformed the Presidio from Crissy Field to the peaks of its forested ridgetops. Some 312 buildings have been rehabilitated, restored wetlands delight birders, families walk or ride along the Presidio’s 24-mile trail network or drop into the park’s museums, and a Visitor Center greets first-time park-goers. The Presidio now welcomes 7.5 million visitors each year. It’s also home to 200 organizations and 3,000 residents, whose rents keep the Presidio on solid financial footing.
“The transformation of the Presidio from Post to Park over the last 25 years has exceeded our wildest expectations,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Under the bold leadership of the Presidio Trust, this vibrant and thriving urban park has been essential to engaging, educating and inspiring our community and the millions who visit every year. The Presidio is the ‘Guardian of the Golden Gate’ and thanks to the tireless work of leaders, activist and determined citizens, it will continue to enrich the lives of countless Bay Area residents for generations to come.”
“The Presidio is a national treasure. It would have been unthinkable for the public to lose access to this extraordinary natural oasis and historic gem,” says Amy Meyer, an original champion of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and a founding member of the Presidio Trust board of directors. “Twenty-five years ago we imagined what was possible here, and now the promise of the Presidio has truly come to life.”
“Seeing land that was once the longest-serving U.S. military post become successful as a great American national park site is fitting and highly satisfying,” said William Grayson, Chair of the Presidio Trust Board of Directors. “The Presidio will continue to be protected for the welfare of the American people, and serve in perpetuity as a place of enjoyment for all.”
The Presidio Today
When the Army left in 1994, many natural areas were in a state of decline, with wetland and riparian habitats eroding and the 300-acre forest planted by the U.S. Army in decline. Today, approximately 600 of the park’s 1,100 acres of open space have been restored at sites like Crissy Field, Mountain Lake, and the Tennessee Hollow Watershed. These projects have brought back acres of riparian and salt marsh landscapes, planted thousands of native plants and re-introduced native species. They have revitalized watersheds, provided for an increase in wildlife habitats, and restored one of the last remaining natural lakes in San Francisco. These areas provide urban visitors with an up-close experience of nature and outdoor enjoyment.
The Presidio is designated a National Historic Landmark District and is one of the largest and most ambitious historic preservation projects underway in the United States. Of the 870 structures in the Presidio, 470 are on the National Registry of Historic Places, and more than two-thirds have been fully or partially rehabilitated for use as private residences and commercial businesses, generating revenue that is put back into the park.
The Trust has repurposed historic buildings for visitor recreation in the airplane hangars at Crissy Field, which house Planet Granite and House of Air.
Others include the Presidio Visitor Center, The Presidio Officers’ Club Museum, Inn at the Presidio and Lodge at the Presidio, the Walt Disney Family Museum, and The Commissary restaurant. And 24 miles of hiking and 25 miles of biking trails, eight scenic overlooks and group camping sites at Rob Hill Campground, add to the visitor experience.