In the 1960s and 70s I must have driven by Candlestick Point State Recreation Area a couple of hundred times on my way to a San Francisco Giants baseball game, never realizing there was a state park right across the street from the stadium.
Any outfielder who has ever been fooled by the direction of a high fly ball at Candlestick Park can vouch that the Point is known for its tricky winds. While the wind may be an outfielder's curse, it is what draws water sport enthusiasts to this point on the San Francisco Bay, especially windsurfers during the blustery late spring and summer months.
I felt an odd combination of excitement and nostalgia. I had just driven into the city over the Bay Bridge - yes - the same bridge that collapsed on the third day of the World Series between Oakland and San Francisco in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. The giddy feeling I get driving into San Francisco has been with me all my life, and I suppose at this point always will be. My nostalgia for those baseball days of Mays, McCovey and Marichal had already been reignited the night before when I coincidentally (or not) had watched the movie Money Ball.
No windsurfers were out today, but the park also offers hiking, jogging, bicycling, bird watching and picnicking. A one mile trail provides easy recreation. Folks can fish off of two long piers. Wooden shelters have information about local birds, and sur-round the tables to protect pic-nickers from the strong winds.
Candlestick Point was first born during World War II as 170 acres of landfill that was going to be used as a U.S. Navy shipyard. After the war, the landfill
remained, but without a purpose. Some of its neighbors found a purpose for it: an easy place to dump their garbage.
Other neighbors sought a different pur-pose. They wanted to turn it into a park with grass, trees, shrubs, flowers and habitat for migrating and seabirds. In 1973, the state legislature set aside $10 million to purchase the land. In 1977, the California Legislature voted to develop the land as the first urban state recreation area.
The late 1970s date explains why I never noticed the area as a state park. By that time my adult interests had changed. Excursions to the ballpark diminished, then disappeared. The San Francisco Giants were relegated to fond childhood memories.
Today on any given day, people come to exercise, fish, and just enjoy the experience of "getting away from it all." Candlestick Point is a treasured respite from city life. It is also valued as a community park with many frequent visitors from the nearby Bayview/Hunters Point neighorhoods.
Several office buildings and apartment complexes sit directly across the street. Unless chain link fencing is installed, I don't see how they can keep the casual pedestrian traffic out of Candlesitck if it closes. However, the simple barricading of the parking lot will be the singular thing that will make the park inaccessible to the rest of the public, save those few who have permits to park at nearby businesses. Private parking lots are only occasionally available at outrageous prices. San Francisco has never been a parking friendly town.
Roxy and I began our two mile, round trip walk around noon. We passed a row of cars parked on the street under "No Parking" signs. The cars were all occupied, no one being foolish enough to leave them unattended in an illegal zone. As we strolled by, the sweet smell of medicinal herb wafted from cracks in car windows. Ah, lunch break!
Our stroll took us around the cove and through a variety of newly blooming wildflowers. The trail offered a handful of exercise stations for those who want a little bit more than a walk for a workout.
The last portion of the path has been painted in happy crayon colors. Lumpy red mounds, lavender serpentine detours and a variety of patterned walkways didn't seem to serve any particular purpose other than... fun!
A strange little angular building marked the end of the trail. There was no information about this tall, slanted closet so it remains a mystery to me.
Roxy and I retraced our steps, walking the mile back to the car. And then I couldn't resist. Candlestick Park was sitting there empty. The Giants moved out a dozen or so years ago and now it is only used for the Forty-Niners football games in autumn. The stadium's emptiness drew me in. I found an open gate and drove through, but the whistle of a security guard called me to turn around.
"Hello," I smiled. "I was just feeling nostalgic. I used to come to baseball games here when I was a kid. My Dad's company had box seats behind home plate," I explained.
The guard smiled back. "Yeah," he said. "My Dad brought me to my first game here in 1965."
"1962 for me. The year they went to the World Series!" I added. He smiled again, nodded and stared. He wasn't going to let me in. Well nothing ventured...
I thanked him and headed to the Highway 101 on ramp, waiting for a Raven to finish munching on road kill before I could get onto the freeway.
I hope to see you at the State Parks.