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SAN FRANCISCO, CA —The 14-acre Presidio Tunnel Tops waterfront park is an urban oasis with stunning views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

The space, which opened to the public July 17, was built over concrete tunnels connecting the Presidio’s Main Post section to the Crissy Field waterfront area below. The Tunnel Tops space used to be occupied by an elevated highway that connected San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge by cutting through the Presidio. In 2012, the outdated highway was demolished and later replaced with the Presidio Parkway, which put the road into tunnels so the park could be reconnected.

A Space For All Communities

Historically our parks have disproportionately impacted communities and individuals who do not feel welcome or safe in our parks. The Partnership for the Presidio has made a concerted effort to break down barriers to access and inclusion. The current slate was co-curated with the community to include experiences that reflect our region’s cultural vibrancy (using the same community-driven approach used to design the Presidio Tunnel Tops) and to create experiences that welcome all.

Feedback was provided through a new Community Experts program, from leaders with deep connections to neighborhoods across the city. They offered suggestions on how the Presidio Tunnel Tops and the broader Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) can be relevant and responsive to community needs.

Nancy Pelosi

“There was a lot of intentionality in having Activators at Presidio Tunnel Tops,” said Kaushik Roy, Presidio Activator and Executive Director of the Shanti Project. “There’s a difference between saying everyone is welcome and making those people feel welcome. What we can do is create programming that keeps those communities in mind and makes people feel like they’re truly wanted and they’re not an after-thought.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony July 17 to officially open Presidio Tunnel Tops. “Today is a day of joy and celebration for all San Franciscans, as our city prepares to open a majestic new public space,” she said. “Those of us who worked for decades to transform the Presidio from Post to Park are thrilled with the Presidio Tunnel Tops, which will serve as a beautiful beacon of recreation, education and community in our city.”

Access To The Outdoors

San Francisco Mayor London Breed attends the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Tunnel Tops park. (Paul Myers photo for the Presidio Trust)

Carey Feierabend, acting superintendent of GGNRA added, “The unique outdoor recreation and exploration space of the Presidio Tunnel Tops may be the first introduction to the national park system for many visitors. We’re delighted to welcome them to this community-crafted space, especially as we look toward celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the establishment this fall.”

Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy’s Associate Director of Community Stewardship and Engagement Yakuta Poonawalla, believes that everyone should have access to the outdoors. By celebrating festivals like Eid (July 30), Diwali (exact date and time will be announced in August) and Holi in our parks we learn about each other’s cultures and ways of being, and by doing so we start breaking down barriers.

Ancestral Futurism

Ancestral Futurism exhibit. (Alex Grant photo for the Parks Conservancy)

“By celebrating outdoors in a park, we create more moments of connection with the human and nonhuman world, and provide a strong example of the power of gathering. Central to the vision of the Presidio Tunnel Tops is activating our parks to be platforms for learning and experiencing multi-cultural and intergenerational programs.”

“We acknowledge that parks have not been welcoming spaces, especially for our historically excluded, underserved, and underrepresented communities in many ways, including the stories told, the types of recreation available, or the processes associated with visiting parks. But we’re learning and growing, and changing that,” adds Poonawalla.

Building on the long tradition of art in the park, Presidio Tunnel Tops has planned a series of temporary exhibitions. These begin with Ancestral Futurism: Looking Back to Repair the Future, an outdoor art installation by Favianna Rodriguez, social justice activist, and Presidio Activator. The installation honors the diversity and interconnectedness of all humans, land, flora, and fauna that have lived in this ecosystem for centuries.

Ramaytush Ohlone

kA view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Tunnel Tops park. (Rachel Styer photo)

The imagery will uplift the stories, experiences, and images of BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) communities with an emphasis on the Ohlone Ramaytush, the original stewards of the land. Abstract symbols will reflect plants and creatures that were once abundant in the region, and themes of justice, freedom, and belonging will weave throughout. A third installation by the artist will include a banner at the Presidio Plaza welcoming visitors to the ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone.

The other highlights of the Tunnel Tops are:

  • Outpost: Balance, swing, and climb on huge structures inspired by Presidio nature and history. 
  • Presidio Steps: Relax and bask in the views of the Outpost, Bay, and beyond.
  • Cliff Walk: Stroll on the edge–it’s like being on top of the world!
  • Presidio Visitor Center: Get the Presidio’s official national park stamp.
  • Presidio Plaza: Meet up, hang out, and enjoy nearby picnic tables!
  • Big Lawns: Find your special spot on the grassy meadows.
  • Field Station: Bring all your senses to explore and discover real things from the Presidio.

Parks and public lands are civic spaces for everyone to enjoy, and essential places for well-being, health, recreation and reflection. Various events, art installations and food trucks makes this new national park site an accessible, welcoming and inclusive place for people across all cultures, perspectives, and geographies.

Mona Shah

Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor,...