History of the Parks Conservancy

A Timeline of Major Milestones Since 1981

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Crissy Field before and after restoration

Over its 30 years, the Parks Conservancy has established a reputation as a leading innovator among nonprofit conservation organizations.

1981

  • Parks Conservancy established, first called the Golden Gate National Parks Association.

1982

  • Began operation of interpretive sales areas at park visitor centers to raise funds for park projects and programs.
  • Established first native plant nursery at Fort Funston—the first of six that grow plants for restoration projects parkwide.

1983

  • Launched Black Point Battery restoration, the first major project of its kind for the Conservancy.

1985

  • Established Golden Gate Raptor Observatory in cooperation with National Park Service; GGRO becomes a pioneering “citizen science” program that trains volunteers as hawk counters, banders, and trackers
  • Began Parks Conservancy members program; attracted 5,000 members in first three years of operation.

1986

  • Announced plans for restoration of Crissy Field shoreline.
  • Operated seven bookstores to serve visitors and provide quality interpretive merchandise for the benefit of the parks.

1987

  • Developed plan to improve visitor experience on Alcatraz Island, including Cellhouse Audio Tour.

1988

  • Established Habitat Restoration Team, one of the longest-running volunteer programs within the park.
  • Opened visitor information and bookstore facility on Alcatraz.

1989

  • Sponsored the construction of a hiking route linking the Coastal and Bay Area Ridge Trails.

1990

  • Funded and built the Muir Woods Visitor Center.
  • Published first Guide to the Parks.
  • Began work with the National Park Service on conversion of Presidio from post to park.

1991

  • Established the Presidio Council.

 1992

  • Converted Fort Barry Chapel into a visitor center for the Marin Headlands.

 1993

  • Launched the Site Stewardship program, now called Park Stewardship.
  • Supported restoration of historic barracks at Fort Cronkhite, and scientific research around nearby Rodeo Lagoon.

1994

  • Celebrated the Presidio’s transfer from military post to national park.
  • Introduced the William Kent Society of the Parks Conservancy.  

1995

  • Reconstructed bridge trail to Point Bonita Lighthouse.

1996

  • Unveiled park identity campaign, featuring the iconic Michael Schwab-designed logos, to visually unify disparate park sites.
  • Installed more than 30 new park entrance signs.

1997

  • Launched Alcatraz Night Tours and produced We Hold the Rock video.

1998

  • Launched Campaign for Crissy Field; developed master plan for Crissy Field Center.
  • Built Marin Headlands Native Plant Nursery.
  • Completed Muir Woods boardwalk.
  • Began operation of SEAT, the accessible tram on Alcatraz.
  • Finished the Lobos Dunes restoration project, one of the first in the Presidio.

1999

  • Restored Crissy Field tidal marsh; launched “Help Grow Crissy Field” public campaign.

2000

  • Established Crissy Field Center’s first youth advisor council to plant seeds for future youth leadership programming.
  • Provided support for spotted owl monitoring in Marin County.
  • Debuted Junior Ranger program.

2001

  • Completed $34.5 million campaign for Crissy Field, celebrating its grand opening with 75,000 community members.
  • Opened the doors to Crissy Field Center, and launched the Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders (I-YEL) program.
  • Began serving the public at the Warming Hut.
  • Dedicated Inspiration Point Overlook in the Presidio.

2002

  • Co-sponsored the transfer ceremony for Fort Baker.
  • Debuted Crissy Field Center summer camps.

2003

  • Launched Trails Forever, an initiative of the Conservancy, National Park Service, and Presidio Trust to build a world-class trail system in the parks.
  • Held first Trails Forever Dinner to benefit trail projects.
  • Supported research of mission blue butterfly populations.
  • Changed name from “Association” to “Conservancy.”

2004

  • Launched Alcatraz Gardens restoration project.
  • Introduced Urban Trailblazers program for youth.
  • Initiated planning and design work for Coastal Trail at Lands End.
  • Began preparations for trail and habitat work at Mori Point.

2005

  • Launched Teens on Trails volunteer program.
  • Designed system of wayfinding signage for California Coastal Trail corridor.
  • Advanced plans for environmental institute at Fort Baker.

2006

  • Celebrated 25 years of support to the Golden Gate National Parks.
  • Cut ribbon on new Lands End promenade and trails.

2007

  • Unveiled first “community trailhead” at Richmond District YMCA.
  • Received historic $15 million gift from Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund to complete network of trails and overlooks in the Presidio and improve Rob Hill Campground.
  • Launched Camping at the Presidio (CAP) program alongside National Park Service, Bay Area Wilderness Training, and National Park Service.
  • Completed Batteries to Bluffs Trail in the Presidio.
  • Warming Hut reopened after recovery from fire.

2008

  • Helped celebrated Muir Woods’ 100th anniversary.
  • Celebrated the community-led revitalization of Mori Point.
  • Held ceremony opening the “new” Fort Baker and Cavallo Point national park lodge, products of the the Conservancy’s partnership with the NPS and Fort Baker Retreat Group.
  • Launched programs of the Institute at the Golden Gate, headquartered at Fort Baker.
  • Unveiled new overlook, trailhead, and parking area at Merrie Way at Lands End.
  • Opened Crissy Field Overlook.

2009

  • Institute at the Golden Gate held inaugural “Turning the Tide” environmental conference.
  • Crissy Field Center moved to sustainably designed interim facility at East Beach, in response to Doyle Drive/Presidio Parkway work.
  • Promoted parks as part of publicity around Ken Burns’ “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” documentary on PBS.
  • Commemorated 25th year of Golden Gate Raptor Observatory.
  • Began restoration work along lower Redwood Creek at Muir Beach.
  • Established Brian O’Neill Youth Leaders Fund in honor of the late General Superintendent of the parks. 

2010

  • Opened new Dias Ridge Trail above Redwood Creek Watershed.
  • Completed new Seed and Plant Lab at Presidio Native Plant Nursery.
  • Finished renovation and expansion of Rob Hill Campground in the Presidio, the only facility of its kind in San Francisco.
  • Supported national “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative to craft 21st century conservation strategy.

2011

  • Celebrated 10th anniversary of the completion of Crissy Field restoration, opening of Crissy Field Center.
  • Debuted the first “Species of the Year” to be featured, the mission blue butterfly.
  • Announced partnership with Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District to help celebrate Bridge’s 75th anniversary.
  • Placed new elevated walkway at Muir Beach, marking the completion of major phase of restoration work.
  • Supported transformation of El Polin Spring in the Presidio.

2012

  • Delivered a memorable Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary community festival; opened new trails, overlooks, and a Bridge Pavilion welcome center as “birthday gifts” to the iconic span.
  • Attained LEED Platinum status—the highest possible certification—for the Lands End Lookout and Crissy Field Center.
  • Established the Park Youth Collaborative (PYC) alongside the NPS and Presidio Trust to elevate the quality of youth education programming parkwide.
  • Welcomed the Oceana High School nursery in Pacifica as the sixth Native Plant Nursery in the park.

2013

  • Advanced a proposal for the Presidio Exchange, a park-themed cultural center, in response to the Trust’s call for concepts for the mid-Crissy Field site.
  • Completed a dramatic multi-phase restoration project at Muir Beach and the lower Redwood Creek Watershed.
  • Debuted the innovative Roving Ranger, a former bread truck repurposed as a mobile trailhead/visitor center.
  • Partnered with SFMOMA to bring cutting-edge art and new visitors to the national parks, through Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field.
  • Inspired, through the Institute's Food for the Parks program, a major initiative to bring healthier, more sustainable concessions to parks across the NPS.
  • Marked the 20th Anniversary of the Park Stewardship Program.

2014

  • Formalized the Tamalpais Lands Collaborative alongside the NPS, California State Parks, Marin Municipal Water District, and Marin County Parks; subsequently launched the One Tam initiative to energize community support for Mt. Tam.
  • Brought thought-provoking, world-class art to the parks with @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, in partnership with FOR-SITE Foundation and the NPS.
  • Hosted—alongside National Geographic, the NPS, and Presidio Trust—a successful BioBlitz, highlighting citizen science at Golden Gate.
  • Worked with SF Department of Public Health to make San Francisco the first city in the world to incorporate "park prescriptions" into its public health system.
  • Facilitated public engagement and community feedback on the New Presidio Parklands Project.
  • Opened the stunning Fort Point Overlook and Eagle’s Point Overlook.

2015

  • Completed the Battery East Vista, viewing area overlooking Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point.
  • Launched Mt. Tamalpais version of LINC program, six-week summer leadership program for high schoolers.
  • Advanced major restoration work at Alcatraz, including rehabilitation of the Quartermaster Warehouse.
  • Built a key connector of the Presidio Coastal Trail, an ADA accessible pedestrian/bike bridge over historic batteries south of the Golden Gate Bridge.

2016

  • Celebrated 100 years of the National Park Service with Junior Ranger Jamboree at Crissy Field, Packing the Parks backpacking trip for 70 Bay Area youth, and more.
  • In conjunction with the NPS Centennial, launched a multi-year partnership with the San Francisco Public Library.
  • For library partnership, ran 10 free shuttles from libraries to national park sites, offered ranger talks and "community trailheads" at libraries, and erected "Little Free Libraries" in parks.
  • Teamed with the FOR-SITE Foundation, the NPS and Presidio Trust on "Home Land Security" art installation at coastal defense sites in the Presidio, attracting 21,000 visitors.
  • Advanced the Tunnel Tops project connecting the Presidio to Crissy Field by hosting design workshops and energizing community support.

2017

  • Opened the stunning William Penn Mott, Jr. Presidio Visitor Center in conjunction with the Presidio Trust and NPS. 
  • Opened more than 1,000 feet of accessible new trail at Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands, finishing habitat restoration at a key site for the endangered Mission blue butterfly.
  • Renovated the Crissy Field Promenade. 
  • Launched "Connection Lost: Families Unraveled by Prison" art exhibit at Alcatraz and "Portal" global interactive exhibit at Crissy Field.