Presidio Tunnel Tops: A unique place to play, connect, and imagine

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A graphic of a green space and children playing throughout it. The Golden Gate Bridge is visible in the background.

Editor's note: This article is part of our 2021 Annual Report to the Community, where you'll find all we've accomplished together in the past year, along with interactive postcards from some favorite park sites and "postcard videos." Check it out >>

Come together at Presidio Tunnel Tops, our newest public green space in San Francisco, 14 acres within the Presidio for our community to embrace as their own. As a free and accessible space, Presidio Tunnel Tops will be an essential resource through the recovery, healing, and wellness after the pandemic. It will be a place for learning and play with new educational facilities for youth, families, and communities to utilize.

Every part of Presidio Tunnel Tops, from its pathways to its picnic grounds, has been designed with the input of over 10,000 community members.

The first seeds of the project were figuratively planted in 2012, when the Presidio Parkway Tunnels were built as a replacement for the seismically unsafe Doyle Drive. The old highway wound its way to the Golden Gate Bridge by cutting the Presidio in two. Using the tops of the new tunnels as a reconnecting point, this outdoor experience brings together the Crissy Field waterfront with the center of the Presidio. By removing physical boundaries, a full national park experience will soon be available to more people in the city. 

More than 180 varieties of plants will inhabit Presidio Tunnel Tops, including coast live oaks and California buckeye trees which have been growing in the Presidio Native Plant Nursery since 2017 from seeds collected in the parks.

Working with James Corner Field Operations, the landscape designers behind New York’s High Line, and ecologists at the Presidio Trust, our plant nursery teams have helped develop a sustainable plant palette that reflects the region and the diversity of space at Presidio Tunnel Tops.

“We've been starting some of everything, making sure that the project has some flexibility,” said Annette Russell, the Presidio Senior Nursery Manager. “We try to look at what we're able to provide at any given time and suggest plants that are both beautiful and endemic to the area.” 

Visitors will be able to note the change in greenery, seeing shrubs and grasses near Crissy Marsh, to the perennials and ornamental species farther up the hill, like lilac verbena and blue globe alliums. 

With a “soft opening” period this fall and winter, community groups will use and test the new facilities. In spring 2022, the completed space will be open for all to experience and enjoy.

Presidio Tunnel Tops represents our parks at their best: as places for community, for connection to nature, for renewal, and ultimately for the public good.

Read more from our 2021 Annual Report to the Community >>

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