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Hawk Hill’s view of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, Marin Headlands, and the Pacific Ocean made it a prime spot to keep an eye out for World War II and Cold War enemy attacks. The gun pits, magazines, tunnels, casemates, and launch pads that remain are now a part of the rich history of these parklands.
Known as Battery Construction 129 during its military days, the site was later dubbed Hawk Hill thanks to its location along a prime raptor migration corridor. The Golden Gate Raptor Observatory has been tracking this raptor migration since 1984, and their dedicated base of about 300 volunteers supports annual hawkwatching, banding, radiotelemetry, and docent programs.
Hawk Hill also has areas of windswept coastal prairie and scrub that are home to endangered Mission blue butterflies. However, non-native Monterey cypress and pine trees had spread into Mission blue habitats on the Hawk Hill over the past 30 years, preventing these dime-size butterflies from being able to follow the naturally shifting patches of their host plants.
Projects at Hawk Hill are enhancing vital wildlife habitat for the butterflies, raptors, and other plants and animals. They are also protecting and rehabilitating its historic structures and upgrading its trails to improve accessibility and safety.
In 2011 and 2012, Monterey cypress trees and other invasive species were removed and native species were planted to restore approximately six acres of coastal scrub and prairie habitats. Key historic resources were also stabilized and protected. These efforts have been maintained by ongoing invasive plant removal and native species plantings in the years since.
The first official phase of this project created an outdoor-accessible trail that connects the Coastal Trail to the hilltop and offers places to rest and take in the incredible views. The existing Hawk Hill Trail and adjacent social trails were decommissioned and restored with native plants. The area above Casemate 1 (one of two structures that house the historic gunpits) was recontoured and restored to native habitat.
The second phase will create an accessible loop starting at the parking area on Conzelman Road, going through the three tunnels and past two enhanced overlooks at the casemates with sweeping views of the Point Bonita Lighthouse and the Pacific Ocean, and connecting back to the road. New visitor amenities will also include restrooms, railings, seating, bike racks, and trash cans.
The last phase of this project will rehabilitate the hilltop’s historic structures, provide improved overlooks, seating, and visitor access, and add important safety features. The project will be capped off with new interpretive elements to share the site’s role in raptor migration, Mission blue butterfly protection, and U.S. military history.