The Parks Conservancy Perspective on the Decision of the National Park Service to Approve a First Amendment Permit for the Patriot Prayer Event on Crissy Field on August 26, 2017

August 23, 2017

Acknowledging a Decision
Today, the National Park Service (NPS) announced its decision to go forward with a First Amendment permit for an event on Crissy Field. The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy is a nonprofit partner to the parks and does not have jurisdiction over permits issued for events and activities in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

We acknowledge the complex factors affecting this decision. We appreciate the priority that the NPS gave to public safety in its consideration. And we reflect upon our First Amendment rights to free speech and the NPS obligation to follow federal law and policy regarding this fundamental American principle.

Affirming the Parks Conservancy’s Vision and Values
Given recent national events, this decision requires an even deeper reflection. The Parks Conservancy firmly believes that our national parks celebrate diversity—as places of welcome and enjoyment for people of every age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, religion, or gender identity. That principle is fundamental to our democracy and the unique American invention of a National Park System. Our national parks are places of inclusion.

Through the ongoing work of the Conservancy’s Crissy Field Center and many other programs with a multitude of community partners, the Conservancy continues to advance this vision of inclusion. For almost 20 years, the Conservancy has carried these principles forward by encouraging people of all backgrounds to enjoy Crissy Field and offering special programs to reach a broader cross-section of our community. We believe our public lands—like the nation itself—are made stronger by diversity.

Rejecting Hate and Intolerance
Recently, events in and around a park in Charlottesville, Virginia demonstrated how our public places can be invaded. Emancipation Park was overtaken by those who promote intolerance and exclusion. The Conservancy stands directly against all forms of hatred, bigotry, or oppression as anathema to our American ideals, as well as to the values of our national parks as places of welcome and inclusion. We stand against movements that promote and foster this reprehensible thinking, including white supremacy, white nationalism, and neo-Nazism—and any other spokesperson or movement spreading intolerance or hatred.

Recalling Crissy Field as Common Ground
The potential for hatred and intolerance being promoted by groups or individuals on Crissy Field is especially poignant to us because, in 1999, the Conservancy led the effort to restore Crissy Field from an old military airfield to a national park for all. Our values embraced—and continue to embrace—diversity and inclusion.

Today, Crissy Field is a beloved national park that recognizes and shares the Presidio’s complex history. It is where native peoples hunted and fished. It has seen immigrants pass through the Golden Gate and into San Francisco Bay. It was an airfield that saw many aviation milestones during the early 20th century. And it was home to a school that trained Japanese Americans as linguists during World War II—even as orders to incarcerate their families were carried out in the Presidio. Crissy Field is a place replete with meaning, a space for reflection and recreation, and a destination park that welcomes over a million visitors every year.

Advancing Our Vision
With the recent events in Charlottesville and the upcoming event on Crissy Field this Saturday, the Conservancy recommits itself to our vision of diversity and inclusion at Crissy Field and throughout the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. There is still much work ahead of us—and work that we proudly and humbly advance. Not everyone has easy access to our parks or the comfort that they are welcome. Our parks often lack the facilities and programs that support and serve a broad cross-section of our community. And our parks aren’t equally enjoyed by all members of our community.

We embrace the opportunity to serve more kids, reach more people, and make the benefits of our national parks available to a wider spectrum of communities—with a focus on kids and families who need our parks the most, due to lack of access to nature and the outdoors.

Reflecting Upon and Learning From Our National Parks
Even while there is work to do, we can look to our National Park System as a source of introspection and reflection. Many national park sites and national monuments commemorate important progress in human rights, and also reflect upon times of intolerance, bigotry, and oppression. The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, Stonewall National Monument, César Chávez National Monument, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, the Statue of Liberty National Monument, and other national park sites speak to civil rights, celebrate American immigrants, and honor progress in social justice.

Other places such as the Japanese American Internment Camp at Manzanar National Historic Site, the Indian Memorial at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Angel Island Immigration Station National Historic Landmark, and many other sites challenge us to reflect upon and remember the tragedies of intolerance and oppression—and its misguided consequences.

Asking You to Join Us
Only through reflection and action can we advance our democratic ideals as represented in our national parks. The Parks Conservancy asks our community of friends, supporters, and partners to continue to join us on the long and important journey of “Parks For All Forever.”

Showing Your Values and Staying Safe
If you want to express your beliefs over the weekend, please consider attending the many events being planned and hosted within our community and away from Crissy Field. Offer your presence in places where your values of tolerance and inclusion can be clearly and safely expressed—and are not subject to the likely crowding at Crissy Field. Also, consider visiting the many other local, state, and federal parks available to our community.

We express our deepest appreciation to the National Park Service—and a myriad of local, state, and federal public agencies—for their focus on the safety of all visitors to Crissy Field this weekend (click here for details on closures and changes to Conservancy-staffed facilities and programs on Aug. 26). Although we encourage you to consider other locations this weekend, you may decide to go to Crissy Field. If you do, please help ensure your safety and exercise your First Amendment rights by expressing your views peacefully and nonviolently.

Your peaceful presence at Crissy Field will not only help keep you safe, but will reflect the values of our national parks as democratic places where all people can gather and come together. By doing so, we can exemplify the ideals that motivated the Conservancy, and our community, to restore Crissy Field as a place for all over 15 years ago.

Thanking Our Partners, Volunteers, Supporters, and Community
The Conservancy extends our profound gratitude to our public agency partners, to our thousands of dedicated volunteers, to our scores of community partners, to our members and donors, and to the youth we serve who give us hope for the future.

And that future is fundamental to the founding principle of our National Park System—to preserve these timeless places for the “enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

The August 26 event on Crissy Field occupies one day. But the future is ours to create with the values we hold dear.

Greg Moore
President & CEO
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy