Parade Ground Restoration at Fort Baker
GGNRA Archives, NPS
Fort Baker’s main parade ground is a 13-acre, oval shaped, grassy area located in the middle of the post. When the army occupied Fort Baker, the main parade ground was dedicated to military drills, marches, parades, and public ceremonies. As in most historic army posts, the main parade ground functioned as the physical and organizational center of post life. Over the years, however, many non-historic and less significant elements have encroached onto the historic area.
As Fort Baker’s historic buildings were rehabilitated into a retreat and conference center called Cavallo Point, The Lodge at the Golden Gate,the National Park Service restored the historic main parade ground.
What is “restoration?” Restoration of a building or landscape identifies a “snap shot” in time of when the building or landscape was the most important and/or represented the highest level of historic integrity. Landscape research identified that after 1939, the army stopped using the parade ground for its original purpose and also began to construct things on the site that diminished its historic integrity. In order to restore the parade ground back to its original historic configuration, the National Park Service designed the new project to create the general appearance and characteristics of the site from around 1939.
To “restore” the parade ground, the plan called for the removal of items that detract from the parade ground’s historic character, like the large asphalt parking lot, associated with the Bay Area Discovery Museum, and the long searchlight building at the bottom of the parade ground. A baseball back-stop and bleachers were also removed. A new sidewalk and bike lanes along Center Road, the historic grand entrance into Fort Baker, make the street more pedestrian and biker-friendly. Large, full-shaped trees, Silver Dollar Eucalyptus, (Eucalyptus polyanthemos) once again march along both sides of the street. An irrigation system, connected to an on-site weather station, has been installed to maintain the new grass and trees until they can grow without additional water. A careful visitor will notice that the new concrete sidewalk and curbs match the historic concrete work found in other areas of the post.
The National Park Service and the Parks Conservancy conducted important research to evaluate the most appropriate vegetation for the restoration project. To determine the best choice of grass for the site, the National Park Service and the Parks Conservancy planted several test strips of different types of grasses and observed their success over the course of 2 years. “Aurora Gold Fescue” was chosen as the best grass because of its slow growth, good performance and low water and maintenance needs. This grass will show its golden color in the fall when the hot weather causes it to go dormant, waiting for the winter rains.
New street trees were selected, including Eucalyptus maculata (Spotted Gum) and Tristaniopsis laurina (Water Gum) because their shape and growth pattern matched that of the original trees. They should grow to about 35 feet in height. These trees were planted along curving Murray Circle to recreate the historic pattern. Historic locations of these trees were determined through historic maps, drawings and photographs. The large fir tree near the top of the parade ground was planted around 35 years ago, along with a brass monument, by the U.S. Army 91st Division whose patch displays a pine tree. The division called Fort Baker home for many years.
To learn more about other Golden Gate National Recreation Area preservation projects, please visit the Historic Preservation page.