Presidio’s Battery Bluff will become San Francisco’s next park

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Until 1920, the Presidio’s coastal artillery battery protected San Francisco against the threat of amphibious invasion with 11 large guns buried in huge concrete emplacement, their guns pointed directly at the bay.

The battery was never needed, so the army pulled out their guns and abandoned the concrete to lie idle for over a century, leaving a fenced-in, forgotten ruin.

After a major transformation, Battery Bluff will become a park on Friday, after the Mayor of London Breed cuts the ceremonial ribbon on the 6-acre green space to open winding paths among the gun emplacement to the public . The park connects to Cavalry Bowl, a 10-acre site that also opens with the ribbon cutting late Friday afternoon to coincide with the Earth Day celebration.

Battery Bluff is part of a strip of green spaces in San Francisco that will open to the public in the weeks and months to come. In mid-July, when Presidio Tunnel Tops is scheduled to open, approximately 40 new acres of open space will be open to the public free of charge, including the Golden Gate Park Conservatory of Flowers and Japanese Tea Garden, which will be landscaped free to visitors. residents of San Francisco.

Plants are placed and ready to be planted next to Battery Blaney in preparation for the opening of Battery Bluff Park during a visit to Battery Bluff Park in the Presidio Thursday, April 7, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif. Battery Bluff is a 6- one hectare park, which will open in April.

Lea Suzuki/The Chronicle

“Better access to green spaces is always a victory for the quality of life. This is because parks and gardens are not just pleasant. They make places livable. Studies show it and the pandemic has underscored it,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks. “San Francisco is a park paradise and it only gets better.”

City-operated Francisco Park, a 5 1/2-acre playground, historic space and bay-view corridor atop the former unused Russian Hill Reservoir, is scheduled to open next week.

“Within our city limits, we have world-class city parks, state parks and even one of the most visited national parks in the country, Golden Gate National Recreation Area,” said Mark Buell. , who sits on both the Recreation and Parks Commission and the Presidio Trust. plank. “In the Presidio, being able to turn a freeway into a greenway is another opportunity to provide even more parkland for people.”

Battery Bluffs and Tunnel Tops are built on top of the automobile tunnels that connect the city to the Golden Gate Bridge via Presidio Parkway. Although the tunnels may be identical, the parks above them are distinctive and separately funded and designed. Tunnel Tops was primarily funded by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, at a cost of $118 million. Both Battery Bluff and Cavalry Bowl were funded by Caltrans, at a cost of $41.5 million for landscape restoration.

Battery Bluff offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, separate bike and pedestrian paths that connect to the pedestrian walkway across the bridge, and early 20th-century half-buried military infrastructure, with concrete steps that rise and metal ladders that lead to hidden doors. The angular construction and exposed stairs without rails make them look like Mayan ruins in Mexico.

This similarity between first- and 21st-century architecture suggests ‘a universal design impulse’, joked Rob Tomson, Federal Preservation Officer for the Presidio Trust during a recent tour that started at its main entrance just across the street. of Lincoln Boulevard from the Korean War Memorial and San Francisco. National cemetery. The site officially opens on Saturday morning at first light.

“It was a forgotten little piece of land,” Thomson said as he stood at the gazebo. “The army just walked away and put it back in line with the freeway.”

The gun emplacement covers a third of the area and is the main attraction of a path that passes right next to it. “They were never open to the public,” said Matt Naderi, Doyle Drive program manager, Presidio Trust. They were built by the Coast Artillery during the Spanish American War of 1898. The concept was to be able to fire on an invading armada that would first hit submerged mines in the bay.

What was then called the National Cemetery Battery consisted of four separate stations, the largest of which was Battery Slaughter. “A guy’s name, not what he did,” Thomson said. In fact, none of the batteries shot down anything. The war only lasted four months while the battery took four years to build.

To cover their investment, the army kept the guns until World War I, when some were returned to European service. At the end of the war, the last gun was removed and the battery abandoned.

Oscar del Toro, with McGuire Hester, works at a picnic area in preparation for the opening of Battery Bluff Park during a tour of Battery Bluff Park in the Presidio on Thursday, April 7, 2022 in San Francsico, Calif.  Battery Bluff is a 6 hectare park, which will open in April.

Oscar del Toro, with McGuire Hester, works at a picnic area in preparation for the opening of Battery Bluff Park during a tour of Battery Bluff Park in the Presidio on Thursday, April 7, 2022 in San Francsico, Calif. Battery Bluff is a 6 hectare park, which will open in April.

Lea Suzuki/The Chronicle

“It really is modern ruins coming back to life,” Naderi said.

Only the last of the four batteries, Baldwin, will be accessible to passing visitors. Beyond, the path passes under the roadway, which is noticeable by the orange flanges which are under the viaduct. These fin-shaped ties are purely decorative, to add a touch of international orange and a thematic link to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Under the design of landscape architect Page Southerland Page, the land was planted with between 150,000 and 200,000 native species. There’s also a native species atop the tallest cypress along the trail: a red-tailed hawk that held its nest throughout the noisy construction and became something of a mascot for the crew.

“For 10 years this falcon has been patrolling above our heads,” Naderi said, watching it come in for a landing.

Sam Whiting is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: swhiting@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @samwithingsf

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