What makes San Francisco a particulary desirable place to live besides the history, innovation, and culture is the vast amount
of open space much of which is composed of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
The park was created thanks in large part to efforts to create it by Congressman Phillip Burton. In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed into law "An Act to Establish the Golden Gate National Recreation Area." The bill allocated $120 million for land acquisition and development. The National Park Service first purchased Alcatraz and Fort Mason from the U.S. Army. Then to complete the national park in the north bay, the Nature Conservancy purchased the land in the Marin Headlands that made up the failed development project called Marincello from the Gulf Oil Corporation. The Nature Conservancy then transferred the land to the GGNRA. These properties formed the initial basis for the park.
Throughout the next 30 years, the National Park service acquired land and historic sites from the U.S. Army, private landowners and corporations, incorporating them into the GGNRA. The acquisitions range from the historic Cliff House restaurant and Sutro Baths in San Francisco, to large and expansive forest and costal lands, such as Sweeney Ridge in San Mateo County and Muir Woods National Monument in Marin. Many decommissioned Army bases and fortifications were incorporated into the park, including Fort Funston, four Nike missile sites, The Presidio and Crissy Field. The latest acquisition by the National Park Service is Mori Point, a small parcel of land on the Pacifica coast.
In 1988, UNESCO designated the GGNRA and 12 adjacent protected areas the Golden Gate Biosphere Reserve.
China Beach A small beach located north of the Sea Cliff district in San Francisco near the Presidio of San Francisco.
The Cliff House A historic restaurant first built in 1863, rebuilt following fires in 1894 and 1907.
Crissy Field A former airfield restored to a 100-acre (.40 km²) shoreline.
Fort Funston A former coastal fortification and Nike missile site SF-59L; now a popular hang gliding spot.
Fort Mason A former military base that now houses non-profit organizations and offers a variety of cultural activities.
Fort Miley Military Reservation - A former military base that now holds a Veterans' Hospital and picnic areas.
Fort Point National Historic Site - A fort at the southern base of the Golden Gate Bridge that formerly housed 126 cannons to protect the bay against invaders. Completed just in time for the Civil War, but never fired a shot in combat.
Mile Rock Historic lighthouse located at the southwestern edge of the Golden Gate
Presidio of San Francisco A former military reservation and lots of San Francisco History. The San Francisco National Cemetery is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Bay area. Near by are Crissy Field, Fort Point and Baker Beach.
Baker Beach Birthplace of the Kool-Aid Acid Test, and a popular sunbathing spot that is clothing-optional at its northern end. Located at the southwestern corner of the Presidio.
Ocean Beach A popular surf spot on the western side of San Francisco.
Lands End and Sutro Baths Concrete ruins of an indoor swimming pool constructed in 1894 by former SF mayor Adolf Sutro dominate the southwest corner; walking the Coastal Trail will bring you to amazing views of the Marin Headlands and Golden Gate.
Marin County GGNRA
Fort Baker - Former Army post located on the northern side of the Golden Gate
Headlands Center for the Arts - Set in artist-renovated military buildings in the Marin Headlands, Headlands Center for the Arts is an internationally renowned artist residency program that promotes the role of artists in society. Headlands Center for the arts has Public Programs, including performances, discussions and lectures, and its Project Space, an 1800 square foot work space with a rotating roster of artists, is open 5 days a week to the public.
Marin Headlands - Includes Nike missile site SF-88, The Marine Mammal Center, Fort Cronkhite, Fort Barry, Rodeo Lagoon, Rodeo Beach, Muir Beach, Tennessee Valley and Gerbode Valley
Muir Woods National Monument – Huge Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) fill this forest, along with Coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum), Tanbark Oak (Lithocarpus densiflorus), and California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica).
Oakwood Valley - bordered by Marin City to the north and the Marin Headlands to the south, Oakwood Valley contains the largest untouched woodland of Coast Live Oak and California bay trees in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Olema Valley - 10 miles (16 km) of grassland and forest that stretch from Tomales Bay to Bolinas Lagoon
Building San Francisco's Parks, 1850–1930. By Terence Young. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004. xviii, 260 pp. $45.00, ISBN 0-8018-7432-7.)
The New Urban Park: Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Civic Environmentalism. By Hal K. Rothman. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004. xiv, 258 pp. $35.00, ISBN 0-7006-1286-6.)
Book Reviews by the Journal of American History: www.historycooperative.org/
The geographer Terence Young and the historian Hal K. Rothman have given us two well-researched and complementary books about the development of public parks on the San Francisco and Marin County peninsulas.
Young takes the story into the 1920s but is most interested in the years from 1860 to 1910 when
San Francisco's Golden Gate Park was being conceived, created, and developed.
Rothman starts briefly with the 1960s but centers his account on the conception, planning, and development of
Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) from the initial introduction of legislation in 1971 through the 1990s.
Both books are about the making, shaping, and reshaping of parks. The central figures are politicians,
interest group leaders, park planners, and administrators.
These folks are also the main sources of information through letters, reports,
testimony, and, for Rothman, interviews. When users appear they are seen externally as
constituencies to be served, visitors to be accommodated, and special groups whose desires create management
challenges (those dog owners! those mountain bikers!!).
This is an observation rather than a complaint, for such constraints are very understandable with
first systematic histories of San Francisco parks.