Park-goers who prefer their park with a parallel order of military history will find plenty to love when the Presidio’s Battery Bluff Park opens next month, offering the public access to new trails, scenic views and a glimpse close to former gun battery sites long out of bounds.
“I hope they have an experience of discovery and wonder because this is an entirely new area for the public,” said Rob Thompson, Federal Preservation Officer for the Presidio Trust.
The highlight of the new park, nestled at the northern end of the Presidio, is the remains of four coastal artillery batteries built between 1898 and 1902. Batteries Baldwin, Slaughter, Sherwood and Blaney were designed as the last line of defense if the Bay Area were to fall. attack from the sea. Any enemy combatants entering the bay would face the numerous 5-inch rapid-fire guns of the batteries as well as a floating minefield.
“These were designed to protect the city of San Francisco and the people of San Francisco,” Thompson said. “And they did that even during their very short period.”
The guns were retired in the 1920s and the concrete platforms with sharp geometric lines were eventually overtaken by weeds and brush – adorned with a gritty patina of decades-old graffiti. Although the military officially left the Presidio in 1994, the area remained closed to the public.
But the removal of the old Doyle Drive and its replacement with the elegant Presidio Parkway marked a new future for the area. Working with Caltrans, the Presidio Trust restored Battery Bluff’s four batteries, cut paths and added some amenities, like picnic tables. The park is due to open to the public on April 23.
“It really is a new landscape, a new way to see the city,” said Matt Naderi, the Presidio Trust’s Doyle Drive project manager.
The 16-acre Battery Bluff Park is an accompaniment to the Presidio’s new 14-acre Tunnel Tops project, a separate park just east of Battery Bluffs that hides the boardwalk’s new twin traffic tunnels. Unlike Battery Bluff, which has few extra features, the Tunnel Tops site has a new amphitheater, children’s play area, space-looking benches made from fallen trees, and educational facilities. The Presidio Trust this week announced plans to open Tunnel Tops on July 17.
By contrast, Battery Bluff retains restrained topography and historic elements that make a walk among its grounds a living history lesson.
“Our project, Battery Bluffs, is more like the heart and soul of the Presidio,” Naderi said. “There’s the historic National Cemetery right behind you. There’s interpretive history, live history right ahead. And, of course, the scenic vistas that tie it all together.”
Thompson toured all four batteries, from the demur Battery Baldwin to the vast Battery Slaughter, the oldest and largest of the four. During the restoration, crews removed layers of graffiti, restored metal doors, and treated the concrete with anti-graffiti treatments. The public will be able to walk on Baldwin Battery while the other three batteries will remain fenced off for safety reasons and to avoid having to make alterations to comply with current building codes.
The restoration of historic artifacts also included the Coincidence Firing Station, a small concrete cube once fitted with a sighting instrument called a rangefinder that soldiers used to aim the big guns.
“It was the eyes of the site,” Thompson said.
Together, the openings of Battery Bluffs and Tunnel Tops mark a massive overhaul of an area that has never been in the hands of the public. It will transform a vast expanse of prime coastal vantage points from the military post into a park, with panoramic views stretching from the Golden Gate Bridge to the San Francisco cityscape.
“It’s brand new, I can’t say it enough,” Naderi said. “It’s brand new, open to the public.”