Presidio Tunnel Tops: The San Francisco To-Do List Just Got Longer

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Editor’s Note – Monthly Ticket is a CNN Travel series that sheds light on some of the most fascinating topics in the world of travel. In July, we hit the trails to explore the most beautiful hikes in the world.

(CNN) — Space is a precious commodity in San Francisco. Finding space for new urban parks in the densely developed city surrounded by water requires some ingenuity.

On Sunday, a long-awaited creative solution opens to the public and gives tourists another thing to add to their list of things to do in San Francisco.

Called Presidio Tunnel Tops, this new federal park was built in an unusual location – just above a busy road tunnel, the Presidio Parkway.

Years in the making, the 14-acre park is an urban oasis with stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The park is designed by James Corner Field Operations. It’s the company behind New York’s popular High Line, another project that creatively transformed unused space into an urban escape and an effective and fun way to connect parts of a city.

This render shows the vision of a green oasis in San Francisco sitting atop – and also hidden from view – a busy highway tunnel.

James Corner Field Operations

“Big cities have big parks, and Presidio Tunnel Tops is a new green centerpiece against the backdrop of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the world-class city of San Francisco,” Corner told CNN Travel per through a representative of the Partnership for the Presidio. .

“The iconic setting is perfect for transforming road infrastructure into a vibrant new public space.”

Tunnel Tops will be part of the Presidio of San Francisco, which served as a military base before being turned into a park. And the Presidio is a site of the sprawling Golden Gate National Recreation Area, comprised of 80,000 acres of national parkland that spans many spots north and south of the historic bridge.

Tunnel Top Features

This rendering shows the Campfire Circle, with a central gas fire pit and seating for up to 75 people.  It is intended as a place for discussion with rangers or for community gatherings.

This rendering shows the Campfire Circle, with a central gas fire pit and seating for up to 75 people. It is intended as a place for discussion with rangers or for community gatherings.

James Corner Field Operations

While these views of the Golden Gate are a highlight, the park provides other features for city residents and many tourists.

First, Tunnel Tops connects two of the Presidio’s four main areas: the Main Post section of the Presidio to the Crissy Field waterfront area below, with its beaches and stunning 2.3-mile waterfront promenade. the water.

So what was once an elevated highway has been replaced with paths that connect the two for the first time in decades, according to a press release from the partnership.

Other key features of Tunnel Tops include:

• Presidio Square: This will serve as an arrival point and staging area as well as a primary people-watching spot. This will also be the hub for the PresidiGo shuttle (a free service to and around the park).
• Cliff Walk and Lookouts: The Cliff Walk follows the edge of the cliff approximately 30 feet (9 meters) above Crissy Field and the bay and “offers sculpted driftwood benches made from fallen Presidio cypress trees”. The walk will also include three lookouts, including one that overlooks Alcatraz, the notorious former prison turned national park site.

• Presidio Stages: These terraces will connect the Cliff Walk to the Outpost, a two-acre outdoor playground for children. They face the Golden Gate Bridge, so visitors can enjoy spectacular views.

• Field Station: Here young people can explore the natural and cultural environment of the Presidio “through the lens of science, art and imagination”.

This rendering is of Golden Gate Meadow.  It is meant to be a gathering area surrounded by gardens, tall native grasses and perennials.  The park plans to use it for picnics, kite flying and connecting with nature.

This rendering is of Golden Gate Meadow. It is meant to be a gathering area surrounded by gardens, tall native grasses and perennials. The park plans to use it for picnics, kite flying and connecting with nature.

James Corner Field Operations

Art murals, picnic areas, a campfire circle and kite paddocks were also added.

San Francisco offers plenty of urban hikes, and the Presidio Tunnel Peaks should prove to be a great starting point or terminus for a rugged outing.

Donors from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy raised $98 million to help build the park. The overall budget for the project was $118 million, with the Presidio Trust contributing $20 million to the project. The groundbreaking began in the fall of 1999.

What this means for San Francisco tourism

The aerial rendering shows how the Presidio tunnel tops will fit into the larger Presidio area.

The aerial rendering shows how the Presidio tunnel tops will fit into the larger Presidio area.

James Corner Field Operations

San Francisco is packed with classic attractions: Golden Gate Park, Coit Tower, Alcatraz, Chinatown, and the Palace of Fine Arts, among many others. How will the new kid on the block stand out?

“The Presidio is one of San Francisco’s unique attractions – a national park destination within an urban destination. Yet some travelers don’t experience the Presidio as well as they do with the city’s other iconic landmarks,” said Hubertus Funke, Executive Vice President. and director of tourism for the San Francisco Travel Association.

“The high-profile opening of Presidio Tunnel Tops will raise the park’s global profile, and it will become a ‘must see’ attraction.”

He said Presidio Tunnel Tops will offer “diverse programming that reflects the cultural vibrancy of the Bay Area. … It’s an incredible upgrade for one of the nation’s most beautiful and visited national parks.”

Opening festivities

The Outpost playground for kids (and the young at heart) is under construction.

The Outpost playground for kids (and the young at heart) is under construction.

Rachel Stier

A private inauguration is scheduled for Saturday, July 16.

Hours of operation to the public are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 17. The Sunday event is free.

You can get there via the PresidoGo Shuttle, Muni Bus 43 (with direct service to the Presidio Transit Center), and Muni Bus 30 (with direct service to nearby Crissy Field).

There’s also paid parking if you want to brave the streets of San Francisco by car, and bike-sharing is available for rent.

It will be a diverse opening day with entertainment including Afro-Latin dancing, bilingual poetry readings, a ranger talk at the new Campfire Circle and more.

Food trucks featuring Bay Area cuisine will be on site, and social justice activist Favianna Rodriguez will unveil a temporary mural installation titled “Ancestral Futurism: Looking Back to Repair the Future.”

Top image: A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the top of the Presidio tunnel during construction. (Photo by Rachel Styer)

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