Apr 20, 2022
The Presidio is at the heart of the most visited national park in the county, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). The GGNRA was created almost 50 years ago to make national park experiences accessible to people who live in the urban Bay Area who have traditionally faced barriers to accessing the national park system. While the Presidio hosts around 10 million visits each year, it’s still striving to reach all of our diverse communities equitably. The opening of the new Presidio Tunnel Tops on July 17 is part of an ongoing effort to extend an invitation to visitors from communities who traditionally haven’t visited national parks.
Featuring bay and bridge views, trails, picnic areas, and a nature play space for kids, Presidio Tunnel Tops will be a place to explore nature, delve into park histories, and for family and friends to come relax and play. It will be a wonderful place to explore on its own and act as the gateway for discovering the broader Presidio, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and other national parks. Best of all, it’s just a bus, BART, bike ride, or ride share away from millions of people.
To help extend an invitation to all, a new Presidio Activator Council is co-creating the opening season of experiences at Presidio Tunnel Tops. In the years to come, the park will continue to collaborate with community groups to meet the interests and needs of all members of our communities through relevant, exciting, and delightful programming to create an authentic feeling of welcome and belonging.
The Activator Council is made up of Bay Area leaders, activists, and artists representing our communities – many of whom have not historically felt welcomed in national parks. Formed in 2021 by the Partnership for the Presidio, this dynamic group of change-makers is incorporating art, culture, food, healing, wellness, music, and cultural learning and exchange into the opening season of events and experiences at Presidio Tunnel Tops so it’s a welcoming and inclusive space for all.
“This is a really unique situation and there was a lot of intentionality in having Activators at Presidio Tunnel Tops,” said Kaushik Roy, Presidio Activator and Executive Director of Shanti Project, a San Francisco non-profit that acts as a safety net for marginalized members of our community. “There’s a difference between saying everyone is welcome and making those people feel welcome. What we can do is create programming that keeps those communities in mind and makes people feel like they’re truly wanted and they’re not an after-thought.”
Kaushik is working with other Activators on a “food as medicine” project. “I’m really excited about programming around health and wellness and providing opportunities so people who are isolated can interact and improve their quality of life,” he shared. Some of these opportunities will include one-time workshops as well as workshop series around health and wellness for seniors and veterans. “Building community and doing interesting activities – this can bring people together,” Kaushik said.
Sharaya Souza, Presidio Activator and Co-founder and Executive Director of the American Indian Cultural District, a group dedicated to recognizing, honoring, and celebrating American Indian legacy, culture, people, and contributions, said she became an Activator to “increase access and visibility in the Presidio for American Indians and make the community feel like they’re an important part of this project and the city.”
To increase diversity at the Presidio and activate the space for American Indians, Sharaya is working on a series of cultural activities that highlight Native Americans, including an oral storytelling series around the Campfire Circle, an annual event around California Native American Day in September called Celebrating San Francisco’s Cultural Heritage which will include cultural sharing from sister Cultural Districts, and reserving the space at the Presidio during Native American Heritage Month so community members and local American Indian organizations can gather and host dances and a GONAs– gathering of Native American to celebrate and honor their culture. She’s also proposing a permanent station at the playground area focused on providing educational activities to youth around American Indian ocean medicines, food, and traditional stewardship.
“Presidio Activators from diverse backgrounds are able to come out here with intentionality and unity. We’re able to share the access and the opportunity to shape these spaces within our communities so they can see themselves in the landscape by creating events and activities specifically culturally relevant them,” Sharaya said.
“The Council is meeting monthly through fall 2022 to plan an unforgettable opening year at Presidio Tunnel Tops, and to begin the journey toward lasting and transformational change in how national parks are experienced,” Presidio Trust Community Outreach and Engagement Specialist Rebekah Berkov said. “Presidio Activators are providing valuable insight as we consider how Presidio Tunnel Tops can be relevant to people who may have previously felt unwelcome.”
Here’s a sampling of some of the things the Council is working on for opening season. We’ll share a full calendar of community-driven public events and programs in the coming weeks on the Presidio Tunnel Tops website, so stay tuned!