It’s been 30 years in the making, but the highly anticipated Presidio Tunnel Tops national park space in San Francisco is now open.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on July 17 to officially open Presidio Tunnel Tops to the public.
The ceremony also kicked off the opening season of free family-friendly events and activities that will be held through October. They include an art installation called Ancestral Futurism: Looking Back to Repair the Future by local artist Favianna Rodriguez, several large festivals, activities held on the first Sunday of every month — known as the Sunday Afternoons series — and the opportunity to reserve picnic places with grills.
Presidio Tunnel Tops adds 14 acres to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and builds a national park space over concrete tunnels connecting San Francisco to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge — which explains its name.
Designed by James Corner Field Operations, which also designed New York’s High Line, and built by Swinerton Builders, the site features scenic overlooks, trails, picnic areas, and gathering spaces with spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Furthermore, Presidio Tunnel Tops also features what’s known as the Outpost, a 2-acre nature play area where kids can swing, crawl, and climb on structures built from fallen tree trunks, boulders, and other natural materials.
“We’re thrilled Presidio Tunnel Tops will offer even more green space for relaxation, for reflection, and especially for play,” Jean Fraser, CEO of the Presidio Trust, said in a statement. “We’ve added an amazing nature play area, many more picnic benches, food trucks, carts, and tents, rangers with campfire talks, and so much more.”
The Presidio Trust is a federal agency that manages the Presidio in partnership with the National Park Service and with support from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
The Presidio’s Historic Origins
The roots of the Presidio go back to 1776, when Spanish soldiers used the area as the northernmost outpost in western North America. Eventually, the U.S. Army took control of the area that is now known as the Presidio in 1846, and built its own military post, according to the National Park Service.
The Presidio, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, has been part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area since 1994. Interestingly, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which itself was the third most-visited site in the National Park System last year, features 37 distinct parks — including the Presidio, Muir Woods National Monument, and Alcatraz Island. The 80,000-acre recreation area supports 19 distinct ecosystems and is home to more than 130 miles of trails and 1,200 historic structures.
A Long-Standing Need For The Presidio Tunnel Tops
Doyle Drive, a highway that divided the Presidio in half on its way to the Golden Gate Bridge, was declared seismically unsafe in 1993. That, in turn, eventually led to the idea of creating tunnels for the highway, and “reconnecting” the two halves of the Presidio by creating new land over the tunnels.
While the idea sounds straightforward, the completion of the Presidio Tunnel Tops is the result of more than 10 years’ worth of community input and consultation with community organizations, health leaders, and park planners — all working with the goal of making national park experiences easily accessible for everyone. Led by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the Presidio Tunnel Tops capital campaign raised more than $98 million for the $118 million project.
“The necessary redesign of the highway to the Golden Gate Bridge presented us with a golden opportunity — to create even more park land over the tops of the highway tunnels!” Fraser told TravelAwaits. “We wanted to make sure the 14 acres right at the Presidio Tunnel Tops was really special, and exactly what the community hoped for, which is why we worked with the community on design, and going forward, curating the welcoming experience of the place.”
Carey Feierabend, acting superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, adds that “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 of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area this fall,” Feierabend continued.
Know Before You Go
You can find more information to plan a visit to Presidio Tunnel Tops here. That includes an interactive map, a calendar of events and activities, and information about the Outpost, the 2-acre play space intended for kids 2–12 years old.
While you’re thinking about visiting Presidio Tunnel Tops and Golden Gate National Recreation Area, be sure to also read: