Crissy Field, originally a salt marsh rife with wildlife, was filled in to serve as a grand-prix racetrack in 1912 as part of preparations for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. It later became an airfield that saw pioneering feats by early aviators from 1920–1936. As its use as an Army airfield waned, the area fell into neglect.
Then the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund intervened. The late Walter Haas Jr., who was an avid outdoorsman, saw the potential for a great park amid the chain-link fences, torn-up asphalt, and scraps of old tires. In 1986, his family foundation funded a study to look at the feasibility of creating a place to be enjoyed by all.
Spurred by the vision of the Haas, Jr. Fund, a lead gift from Colleen and Robert Haas, and the “Help Grow Crissy Field” campaign of the Parks Conservancy, the entire community rallied to the cause. Thousands of donations poured in and more than $34.4 million was raised. Over 3,000 volunteers rolled up their sleeves to help plant 100,000 plants. And then, after three years of working side-by-side, the community came together on May 6, 2001 to celebrate its shared achievement.
What we celebrated on that May day was astounding. After 70 acres of asphalt and concrete had been crushed and reused, 87,000 tons of hazardous material removed, and 130,000 plugs of salt grass planted by hand, we had created a gorgeous 100-acre swath of national parkland— including a restored grassy field, revitalized marsh, new shoreline promenade, and an environmental education facility, the Crissy Field Center, to ensure our stewardship of the land endures in future generations.
Crissy Field, a signature project of the Parks Conservancy, has become a model for community-led restoration of urban parklands around the world.
Many thanks to the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Colleen and Robert Haas, donors to the “Help Grow Crissy Field” campaign, and the thousands of community volunteers who made this transformation possible.