Elevated Park Will Connect Crissy Field With Presidio

As Presidio Parkway traffic underneath carried people from San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge, a ceremony Thursday marked the beginning of something new: an elevated park that will connect Crissy Field on the waterfront with the Presidio. 

The roadway has divided the two areas for eight decades. Since the former U.S. Army base at the Presidio became a national park 25 years ago, planners have transformed it into more than two square miles of urban green space. The new project, Tunnel Tops Park, is the most ambitious addition yet. Its 14 acres will offer free public access to a 360-degree view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands, the Presidio and the San Francisco skyline. 

Since 1936, when crews built an elevated highway that linked San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge, vehicle traffic restricted access to the waterfront and blocked views of the bay. The highway’s demise presented an opportunity to build parts of the road underground and create public space. 

Reimagining Urban Spaces

Planners, including lead designer James Corner, best known as an architect of Lower Manhattan’s popular High Line park, expect Tunnel Tops to open in 2021. It reflects an international movement to repurpose neglected spaces like derelict bridges and railroad rights-of-way. It will add to the Presidio’s existing hiking and biking trails with almost two miles of paths, native plant meadows and picnic areas. The new park also will include a youth education campus and an immersive playground modeled on the habitat of the Presidio.

The nonprofit Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy has privately raised $86 million, and the Presidio Trust has donated another $20 million to the project. Organizers estimate its creation will cost $118 million.

“Tunnel Tops will provide greater access to fresh air, beautiful views, gardens, and gathering spaces where people can come to relax, play and connect with each other,” Fraser said.

During the launch ceremony Nov. 7, Presidio Trust chief executive Jean Fraser pledged that visitors will be able to walk from Crissy Field to the Presidio’s Main Post for the first time in eight decades.”  

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A Refuge For Many Species

She isn’t just talking about human visitors. 

Tunnel Top Park will act as a wildlife corridor, allowing access to Crissy Marsh and Quartermaster Reach Marsh. Those are among the richest habitats in the Presidio. Michael Boland, chief park officer for The Presidio Trust, said, “We are using 21st century ecological principles to stitch the landscape back together.” 

The Presidio is located along the Pacific Flyway, an important route for migrating birds. Tunnel Tops Park’s water features will be designed to attract migrating birds and other wildlife. Its horticulture staff will encourage plants like coyotebush to grow naturally where they will succeed. 

“Native species can flourish in urban areas when given the chance,” Boland said. “Tunnel Top is an ideal opportunity to explore the role cities can play in preserving biodiversity and addressing the extinction crisis.” 

Fast Facts About Tunnel Tops Park

  • Year project began: 2014
  • Acres of new parkland: 14
  • Total number of plants: 200,000
  • Number of native plants: 100,000
  • Total square feet of new construction: 6,528
  • Design scoping: 10,000 community participants
  • Year project opens: 2021

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