40 for 40: Parks Conservancy celebrates 40 years of connecting parks and people

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Mission blue butterfly seen landing on a yellow flower.

Wow, 40! It's eye-popping to think of all we've accomplished together in four decades since the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy was formed on Aug. 11, 1981. 

Together with our members, donors, the National Park Service (NPS), the Presidio Trust, and other cherished partners, we've helped transform these parks into destinations for all.  

We've helped convert the Presidio and Fort Baker from US Army posts to park sites, and rebuilt habitat for endangered species like the Mission blue butterfly and San Francisco garter snake. We've transformed Crissy Field from a concrete parking lot into an iconic San Francisco park. And we've built opportunities for people from around the Bay Area to discover parks through free youth programscommunity outreach, and more. 

In that first year, we raised $9,000 to help support the GGNRA. Since then, the Parks Conservancy has contributed a grand total of $624 million to improve parks and park connections. The parks thank you! Not a member yet? Join us today!

Over these 40 years, we've remained dedicated to parks and people. So we wanted to look back at some of the people, park sites, and memorable moments that have made the biggest impact on the Parks Conservancy and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) over our 40 years. 

What will the next 40 years bring? Public parks are becoming even more vital, catalysts for positive change in society and the environment. The Parks Conservancy plans to be at the forefront of that change, and we're excited to build the next chapter of these parks with you. 

It's been an incredible 40 years in the parks. Make sure to check back to this page, each quarter over the next year we'll be adding 10 items to this list, until we get all the way to 40!


40 for 40


Amy Meyer 

There wouldn't be a GGNRA without Amy Meyer. She formed the People for a Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1971, and her advocacy, along with that of other other park champions like Ed Wayburn and Congressman Phillip Burton, led to the formation of the GGNRA in 1972. Amy has been a fixture in the parks ever since.  

"We have to keep watching out and working all the time to protect these natural and cultural treasures," Amy said. Read more about Amy and other women of the parks.  

Before-and-after images crissy field

Crissy Field transformation 

On May 6, 2001, the NPS and Parks Conservancy unveiled the revitalized Crissy Field, reshaping San Francisco’s northern waterfront. Thanks to thousands of community volunteers, donors, and the vision and generosity of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Crissy Field has become a launch spot for fun. Check out then-and-now interactive sliders to see the transformation.

Fort Baker 

In 2002, the Parks Conservancy and NPS kicked off the revitalization of this former US Army base, which reopened in 2008 with the gorgeous Cavallo Point lodge. 

Crissy Field Center 

In 20 years, we've reached more than 720,000 participants through youth programming at the Crissy Field Center. Soon, our youth programs will come back to their renovated home at Presidio Tunnel Tops, part of expanded offerings for youth and the community. 

Ryan Jones 

Ryan became involved in the parks as a high schooler and went on to lead and teach hundreds of students in the Bay Area with his infectious enthusiasm, deep knowledge, and beautiful sketches of wildlife. After he was tragically struck and killed by a suspected drunk driver on the Bay Bridge, the Parks Conservancy established the Ryan Jones Youth Program Fund in his honor, and the wildlife illustrations adorning our Roving Ranger mobile trailhead were made by Ryan. 

Mission blue butterfly 

The Parks Conservancy has helped restore habitat for the federally endangered Mission blues at several locations, including Milagra Ridge in San Mateo County, and Wolfback Ridge, Hawk Hill, and Oakwood Valley in Marin County. A recent multi-year translocation project has yielded promising results

The outside of Lands End Lookout at sunset

Lands End 

In 2012 we unveiled the new Lands End Lookout, later named the best new public building of the 2010s by the San Francisco Chronicle. The Parks Conservancy has been dedicated to improving Lands End with regular volunteer events, StoryWalks, and more. 

One Tam 

In 2014 we helped launch the One Tam partnership, which mobilizes the resources of the NPS, California State Parks, The Marin Municipal Water District, Marin County Parks and the Parks Conservancy to ensure a vibrant future for Mt. Tamalpais. The partnership has been a model for land management agencies working together for a common good. 

Golden Gate Bridge 75th anniversary 

It was quite the celebration, finished off with a bang. The Parks Conservancy worked closely with our partners to produce a year of events commemorating the bridge, culminating in a massive fireworks show on May 27, 2012.  

Ai Weiwei Art Installation at Alcatraz

Ai Weiwei ON ALCATRAZ  

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei brought his works to Alcatraz Island in 2014 and 2015, thanks to the FOR-SITE Foundation, in partnership with NPS and the Parks Conservancy. Ai's works raise urgent questions about human rights and freedom of expression, and he found compelling new context in this exhibition of works created specifically for Alcatraz. 

Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour  

In 1987, the Parks Conservancy first introduced the Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour, an award-winning model for immersive visitation experiences at national parks. Millions of visitors have since taken this fascinating tour, which features interviews with those formerly incarcerated and correctional officers. 

Chris Lehnertz and Greg Moore  

In 2019, the Parks Conservancy entered a new era of leadership, welcoming Chris Lehnertz as President & CEO after 33 years with Greg Moore at the helm. It was a time to celebrate Greg's incredible impact on parks while looking to the future with Chris. Her passion for making parks relevant and accessible to all communities has helped the Parks Conservancy launch into its next era, building on our work to connect people with parks for the next 40 years and beyond. 

Presidio: Post to park 

The Parks Conservancy and our partners celebrated the transfer of the Presidio from military post to national park in 1994, and we've supported many Presidio projects since. From El Polin Spring to the Presidio Visitor Center and the new Presidio Tunnel Tops, the Parks Conservancy, Presidio Trust and NPS have transformed the Presidio into a park cherished by everyone today. 

Park Stewardship Intern and Volunteer

Volunteers  

As part of a cooperative program of the NPS, Parks Conservancy, and Presidio Trust, our volunteers have gifted millions of hours of their time to the parks over the years, and we couldn't be more grateful. You've given your hands, your hearts, your Thursdays and your Saturdays. And you often get to see your hard work pay off, when you traverse that trail you improved or see a new space like Black Point Historic Gardens reopen thanks to your hard work. Thank you volunteers!  

Trails Forever  

Brought to our parks by late Superintendent Brian O'Neill in 2002, and modeled after its sister program in Acadia National Park, the Trails Forever initiative has led to the creation of more than 125 miles of trail and restoration of over 1,000 acres of habitat. Join us at our annual Trails Forever dinner to make your impact on parks! 

Brian O'Neill  

As General Superintendent of the GGNRA, Brian O’Neill was renowned throughout our community and around the world for his work with parks, conservation, and youth. He inspired many young people to pursue careers in public service and conservation, and upon his untimely death in 2009, the Parks Conservancy created the Brian O’Neill Youth Leaders Fund to honor his legacy. 

Muir Woods Visitor Center  

The Parks Conservancy has helped fund several projects at Muir Woods National Monument through the years, including the construction of the Muir Woods Visitor Center in 1990. Visitors can find park gifts, maps, and more before starting your experience at the iconic entrance sign. 

Visitors to the Warming Hut at Crissy Field are seen in a file photo.

The Warming Hut 

Crissy Field wouldn't be the same without the beloved Warming Hut! A popular destination at the end of the Crissy Field Promenade Trail, the Warming Hut has recently been refreshed and is serving Equator Coffees, snacks from local and California producers, and locally designed gifts to delight your loved ones. 

Native Plant Nurseries  

Through the years our Native Plant Nurseries, run in cooperation with NPS and the Presidio Trust, have grown millions of plants for projects throughout the Golden Gate National Parks. Our nurseries engage the community in unique ways, like the Oceana High School Nursery in Pacifica, which invites students to learn about plants and the environment around them. 

YOU! 

Thank you for your support that has made the last 40 years possible, and we're looking forward to the next 40 years with you in these parks! 

Peter Hockaday joined the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in summer 2018 as Director of Editorial Content & Strategy.

Make a gift today and it will be matched up to $250,000!

The Parks Conservancy has spent 40 years helping to build the beautiful, vibrant parks you love today. Donate now to have your gift matched $-for-$ and help the Parks Conservancy launch into our next 40 years with passion and purpose!