California’s first urban state park will close soon without funds

Jackrabbit Cove, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area

Jackrabbit Cove, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area

Today, Bay Nature published a story I wrote on Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, a park slated for closure and recently vandalized.

Despite being at the center of a multi-million dollar wetlands restoration project and one of the largest redevelopment efforts San Francisco has seen since the 1906 earthquake, California’s first urban state park is set to close July 1, 2012 due to state budget cuts.

A rare slice of nature for southeast San Francisco

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area hugs the shoreline of San Francisco Bay offering panoramic views and a slice of serenity in a San Francisco neighborhood that has suffered from environmental contamination and high unemployment.

“Candlestick is a community place where locals can get out in nature and find a safe haven,” said state parks superintendent Danita Rodriguez.

California’s first urban state park

In 1976 the state acquired the land here with a vision of bringing state park access and values to an urban community struggling with high unemployment and a lack of park space.

After a big cleanup, park officials held neighborhood meetings to create the park’s first general plan. The plan prioritized picnic areas, boating facilities, hiking and biking trails, a nature education center and other amenities. People strongly voiced the desire for landscaping the park with California natives.

Locals and nonprofits breathe life into a degraded landscape

Since the parks inception, nonprofits and citizen action groups have worked to help fix the park and offer experiences for youth. Neighbors rent a share of the park’s community garden, where growing vegetables is popular. The park maintains a waiting list for the $10-per-year plots.

Volunteers work in the native plant nursery at Candlestick Point on Earth Day. Photo courtesy of the California State Parks Foundation

Volunteers work in the native plant nursery at Candlestick Point for April 14 Earth Day Event. Photo courtesy of the California State Parks Foundation.

The California State Parks Foundation frequently organizes volunteer events to cleanup the park, improve the landscape and cultivate native plants. They partner with Bay Youth for the Environment, a program of Literacy for Environmental Justice, to operate a native plant nursery here to supply plants for restoration projects including a 34-acre wetlands restoration project at Yosemite Slough.

In the face of the park’s looming closure, Candlestick’s supervising ranger Ann Meneguzzi was impressed by the show of support for the park at a recent Earth Day cleanup event on April 14. “We had a wonderful turnout. Over 160 volunteers came out,” said Meneguzzi. Volunteers worked in the native plant nursery, fixed trails, removed graffiti and pruned trees.

Vandals break into community garden and destroy native plants

The park’s planned closure and recent vandalism are major setbacks for the community.

As reported in a San Francisco Chronicle blog, this past weekend, vandals broke into the garden and damaged thousands of native plants. The damage wiped out much of the work of volunteers who participated in the April 14 Earth Day event.

Barren park lands

Like many other parts of the San Francisco Bay shoreline, the land here is fill and suffered from years of neglect and dumping. The northern section of the park’s 151 acres has not reached its potential as a natural area and recreational destination. Some of those areas are covered in non-native vegetation and vast expanses of weedy asphalt that have served as overflow parking for the adjacent Candlestick Park, a stadium scheduled to be demolished.

Undeveloped parklands in Candlestick Point State Recreation Area

Undeveloped parklands in Candlestick Point State Recreation Area. Near the park's border, the tan and green Alice Griffith public housing complex will be rebuilt as part of a major neighborhood redevelopment.



Candlestick Point/Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Redevelopment

Steve Musillami, Planning Division Chief for California State Parks, is overseeing the creation of a new general plan and Draft Environmental Impact Report for Candlestick in response to the planned construction project that will rise up alongside the park as part of the $8 billion Candlestick Point/Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Redevelopment.

The controversial construction project will dramatically alter the neighborhood surrounding the park, replacing the existing Candlestick Park stadium, vacant lands and deteriorating Alice Griffith public housing complex with thousands of new homes, retail, entertainment venues, plazas and play areas. Planners expect full build-out by 2020.

If everything goes as planned, this project will bring future resources for the park. But those funds are not expected to arrive soon enough to spare the park from state budget cuts. Read more about the promise of funds at BayNature.org.