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Watershed moment for San Francisco Presidio's 50 acre ambitions

11 February 2021

Despite the pandemic, the San Francisco Presidio has been unfaltering in pushing forward the delivery of several major park improvement projects simultaneously, with an impressive 50 acres of new parkland being completed in 2021.

Despite the pandemic, the San Francisco Presidio has been unfaltering in pushing forward the delivery of several major park improvement projects simultaneously, with an impressive 50 acres of new parkland being completed in 2021.

Cover Photo: Illustrated render of Quartermaster Reach with Golden Gate Bridge in background (by Art Zendarski via Presidio Trust)

The Presidio of San Francisco is at the centre of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the most visited national park in America. The park welcomes more than 7.5 million visitors each year and is managed by the Presidio Trust in partnership with the US National Park Service and with the support of Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

Quartermaster Reach

In December last year, 7 acres of ecologically restored tidal marshland including a new pedestrian trail near San Francisco Bay was opened to the public. This marked a 20 year visionary revitalisation of the Tennesee Hollow watershed, flowing out into Crissy Marsh and the iconic San Francisco Bay.

Quartermaster Reach before & after
IMAGE: Aerial photography & render of Quartermaster Reach before and after restoration

The site is known as Quartermaster Reach, named for the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps, which operated in the area when the Presidio was a military post. The project transforms a formerly paved construction site under the “Presidio Parkway” road approach to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge into a beautiful new wetland ecosystem. Creeks now flow above ground along the Presidio’s largest watershed known as Tennessee Hollow to San Francisco Bay through Crissy Marsh, improving the biodiversity of the Presidio. The site will allow visitors to enjoy an intimate experience of nature just minutes from downtown.

The base from which this habitat rich wetland has been formed was for decades covered in asphalt, railroad tracks and warehouses, as a result of it's former military past. Which makes this ecological restoration project especially impressive considering the challenges that the heavily contaminated landscape posed to engineers and ecologists alike.

VIDEO: Quartermaster Reach Opens - Presidio Trust

Jean Fraser, CEO of The Presidio Trust, who manage the park said:

“Our planet is in the midst of an extinction crisis due to the destruction of habitat. Projects like this give us hope that we can turn the tide. We’ve turned back time more than a century to restore the natural systems of the Presidio’s shoreline. We hope the lessons we learn here will be helpful to others who are also committed to restoring Bay ecology”

Tunnel Tops

Also on track at The Presidio, for completion in late 2021 is the innovative Tunnel Tops project - a 14 acre extension of the park which reaches out and encloses busy road traffic under a cocoon of contemporary green space - designed by the world renowned Field Operations (the firm behind New York’s High Line), headed up by British  landscape architect James Corner.

Tunnel Tops visualisation - Presidio Trust
IMAGE: Aerial visualisation of completed project

The landscape will feature scenic overlooks with stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the City, paths and gardens, a welcome plaza with food and visitor services, a campfire circle, picnic grounds and more. Kids and adults alike can learn about nature, explore and have fun at the expanded Crissy Field Center, the “Outpost” natural playground, and new Field Station. The Presidio Tunnel Tops will welcome people from all backgrounds to an inclusive and safe space in which to connect with the great outdoors, enjoying a green oasis right within the city limits.

Cliff walk
IMAGE: Visualisation of elevated walk with view of Golden Gate Bridge

James Corner, Principle Designer and owner of Field Operations said:

“This has been an extraordinary experience to create a new green centerpiece for the Presidio in the context of the larger Bay Area and the world-class city of San Francisco...the iconic setting is perfect for transforming highway infrastructure into a vibrant new public space”

The design was shaped by input from over 10,000 community members across the city on how they would like to use and enjoy this new parkland, made possible by the transformation of the former Doyle Drive highway into the Presidio Parkway. While the old highway once cut off the northern waterfront from the rest of the Presidio, the new parkway places key sections in “cut and cover” tunnels, allowing for new parkland above.

The project was made possible thanks to an astonishing $100 million raised through philanthropic efforts spearheaded by the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy. 

Visualisation of campfire feature as part of the gateway from Main Post

50 acres of new park

By the end of 2021, alongside Quartermaster Reach and the Tunnel Tops project, The Presidio Trust will have also created an incredible 29 acres through the Doyle Drive Restoration Project, which runs through the park and serves as a regional gateway between the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Francisco for cars, cyclists and pedestrians alike. 

Green Flag Award 

In January 2020 the Presidio became the first park in the United States to achieve the international Green Flag Award. And the park was recently re-accredited following a rigorous remote assessment process overseen by the original judging team.

Chris Worman MBE, who was part of the original judging team said:

"In a time when parks across the world have played such an important role in all our lives its great to see a the park continue to be developed in such an innovative way. The fact its also being created at such an iconic location within one of the largest cities in the USA is a great example of what can be achieved with strategic vision and investment in our green spaces. This is a wonderful model that the world can look to for inspiration for the future."

Now, in a first of it's kind - Keep Britain Tidy; who manage the Award internationally, are seeking to launch a Green Flag Award pilot program for the Award across California in 2021.

Carl McClean - International Development Manager for the Green Flag Award said:

"The Presidio spearheaded the introduction of the certification into the USA - putting San Francisco and the Bay Area on the Green Flag Award map. Now we'd like to engage with other city parks departments and parks agencies, community groups and conservancies throughout the state - to embrace the international program with our support within a structured pilot project"

If you know of any parks organisations in California who might be interested in applying in this first phase, enquiries are welcome via our Contact Us page

For more information about Quartermaster Reach:

For more info about Presidio Tunnel Tops: