Saturday, March 3, 2012

CANDLESTICK POINT STATE RECREATION AREA: TRIP #26 OF 70

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.

Lucy

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing a story about Candlestick Point State Recreation Area. This park is located in an under-resourced community in southeastern San Francisco, an area that also suffers from disproportionately high rates of violence, poverty and health problems compared to other neighborhoods in San Francisco. Closing this park, in a park poor area of the city, would be a big loss and a social justice issue. Do you know if any local efforts are underway to keep the park open?

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    1. I agree Christine. I feel the same way about Santa Susana State Park in LA County. Open spaces are espcially valuable in urban environments. I don't know of any local efforts at this time to keep it open :(

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    2. It is really unfortunate that Candlestick Point is to close, and that it has not had the local support to keep it open. As it is in a mainly low-income area I can see how it would be difficult to get residents to raise money to save the park when their own survival is a difficult task. Thank you for trying to raise awareness of all of California's amazing parks that need saving, because they are a truly valuable resource to Californian's health and peace of mind!

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    3. It is very unfortunate that Candlestick Point is scheduled to close as it is truly a little piece of heaven in the low-income Hunter's Point/Bayview neighborhoods. It is even more unfortunate that as it is in a low-income neighborhood, it has not seen the financial support that other parks proposed to close have seen. Thank you for trying to raise awareness for Candlestick as well as all the other parks scheduled to close, as such parks, especially urban parks, are a real benefit to both mind and body, and would be a real detriment to the health of communities if taken away from them.

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  2. I'm a big fan of state parks...sure hate to hear of so many closures in your state. congrats on being named a Blog of Note. I look forward to seeing more of your site.

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  3. Thanks for another great write up, Lucy; your photos are fabulous! Wouldn't it be wonderful if your blog inspires the powers that be (that's you, Gov. Brown ;-)) to recognize what we're losing and to rethink the closures?

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  4. In the spring and summer this is a very popular windsurfing spot. There is a good use for the strong winds that drove the Giants to a new ballpark.

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    1. It would have fun to see that. I'll have to try to stop by later in the year.

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  5. Nice blog, hi friend, i found that there is one website offering free puzzle games. Just take one minute to sign up then you will receive one free puzzle game. Its URL is http://www.684899.com/en/CosmicCreature/project_1.htm Click the below button of the page to get in. I've done it and now i am enjoying. Would you like one?

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  6. Wonderful post:) It's hard not to be nostalgic when you get older I find (chuckles here..)
    Nice photo's. I do so love seeing and learning of different places such as in your post.
    Hope you have more adventures and many more good memories~

    Dee~ from BC~

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  7. Hi Lucy, I read about your endeavor in the San Franciso Chronicle. I am a writer for Bay Nature Magazine (online edition), and would like to interview you for that publication. (I couldn't find an email or phone # for you, so I hope that this post reaches you.) Can you please email me at PinkyProph {at} aol.com to let me know when a convenient time would be? Thanks,

    Paul Epstein
    Bay Nature Magazine
    Editorial Volunteer

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    Replies
    1. Wonderful idea, Paul! I've never heard of Bay Nature Magazine; how can I find out more?

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  8. Replies
    1. Thanks. It's a challenge but an enjoyable one.

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