Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy Connects Bayview Residents to Their Parks

By Amanda Keith posted 07-20-2016 01:32 PM


Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA.

Each year, Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) welcomes 14.5 million visitors to its unique National Park Service (NPS) sites, such as Alcatraz Island, the Marin Headlands and the Presidio in San Francisco. As one of the largest urban parks in the world, its purpose is to offer “a national park experience to a large and diverse urban population while preserving and interpreting its outstanding natural, historic, scenic, and recreational values." However, when the NPS conducted surveys to find out who was coming to GGNRA, they found they had poor representation from a community on the southeast side of San Francisco. That’s when Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the Presidio Trust seized the opportunity to help.

Through their Bayview Shuttle and Community Trailhead Program, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (GGNPC) and the Presidio Trust set out to provide free transportation for the citizens of Bayview to encourage them to visit their national parks. The idea was to utilize their compressed natural gas powered PresidiGo shuttles to transport residents to and from the parks during non-commute hours and to provide educational programming to enhance the experience for these visitors.

“We started in 2013 and the goal was to run a shuttle continuously on four Saturdays in October,” said Jennifer Greene, GGNPC’s Associate Director of Community Engagement Programs. However, as many will remember, that month was the month of the federal government shutdown and the first weekend of the program seemed ill-fated. While the parks themselves stayed open for the opportunity to welcome Bayview visitors, Greene said it was difficult to get people interested – there was a lot of uncertainty about the parks and, as an outside group without a clear understanding of what Bayview residents wanted, it was difficult for GGNPC and the Presidio Trust to recruit participants.

Bringing Bayview Residents to Parks through Partnerships

“It was not successful until we found partners,” Greene explained. After the first weekend of very few shuttle riders, GGNPC and the Presidio Trust connected with local Bayview residents and groups, such as the Bayview YMCA, to bring 160 youth and adults out to GGNRA that month. From then on, they decided to work only with community groups and community leaders that would promote the program and encourage Bayview residents to visit the parks together. “Groups bring with them their own sense of pride and sense of adventure,” Greene explained. Not only were they more comfortable going with people from their community, visiting the parks together allowed them to have a shared experience.

Based on this understanding, GGNPC and the Presidio Trust enhanced their program and, since 2013, have brought more than 1,000 people to the parks by working with groups such as the Bayview Y Walking Group, the Bayview Youth Advocates Teen Leaders and the Bayview Network for Elders.

GGNPC young leader alumni (I-YEL) and Bayview families from Mission Neighborhood Center. By Paul Myers, GGNPC.

The Bayview Network for Elders Fills the Bus to Visit Their Parks

According to Ann Berry with the Bayview Network for Elders, the program has greatly benefited her group of elderly women in the Bayview area. “I can’t say enough about how much we appreciate this program,” she said. 

When GGNPC or the Presidio Trust reach out to her group with an opportunity to ride the shuttle, Berry said her group fills the bus, every time. The participants, who range from 65 years of age to 100, are excited to visit their parks. “The women are so busy during the week,” she said. “But not for themselves.” Whether it’s transporting their grandchildren or attending doctor appointments, Berry explained that they don’t often have the opportunity to visit places and take part in activities that benefit them. So, when a weekend opportunity arises to visit the Ai Wei Wei Exhibit on Alcatraz Island or to meet Ranger Betty Soskin at Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park, these women are there. “It’s not only that we’re a close group,” Berry explained, “it’s that we want to take advantage of everything.”

One thing that Amy Deck, Presidio Trust’s Project Manager of Trails and Philanthropy learned was how much this opportunity meant for participants to get away from busy city life. “Silence is so valuable,” she said. Escaping the “concrete jungle” is something participants enjoy and feel they need through this program. In addition, the casual conversations the participants have with one another also give them a sense of confidence in their parks. “The most rewarding [part about the program] is that they want to learn how to come back on their own,” Deck explained. Not only do the participants enjoy the visit as a group, but many of them feel welcomed enough in the parks that they want to come back.

Expanding the Shuttle Program to Celebrate the NPS Centennial

To celebrate the National Park Centennial, GGNPC’s Jennifer Greene explained that they are widening the program’s reach to provide transportation to even more communities. “We aim to provide opportunities for community groups in the park’s three counties – San Mateo, Marin, and San Francisco,” Greene said. She added that whereas there was funding to complete 25 – 30 trips the previous year, this year, they are able to fund at least 50 – 60 as part of the Centennial’s “Find Your Park” program. “It’s going to be a busy summer and fall,” she said.

Partnership Awards Recipient

The "Bayview Community Shuttle and Community Trailhead Program" was selected as a recipient of this year’s Outstanding Public Engagement Award for its strong demonstration of partnerships in increasing the visitors experience on public lands. To learn more about the program, visit their website page here.

Bayview youth excited to play in the ocean at
Baker Beach. By Alison Taggart-Barone, GGNPC.

Family fun time on the Crissy Promenade.
By Jeremiah McWright.