A Park For The People, Photo Exhibition

Presidio VC

A Park for the People, 50 Years of GGNRA | Photo Exhibition

Duration: December 2022 - August 2023 | Location: Presidio Visitor Center, Main Post

An exhibit that celebrates the past, present and future of this unique national park. Encompassing centuries of overlapping cultures, and history - Golden Gate is home for many. Take a look back at where it all began; where it is today, and what's next. Featuring photography from GGNRA's Volunteer Photographers and Park Archives.

c.1950 MARIN HEADLANDS,  HAWK HILL Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives
c.1950 MARIN HEADLANDS, HAWK HILL, Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives | 2022 MARIN HEADLANDS, HAWK HILL, Kirke Wrench

How A Park Was Formed

Indigenous people have called the San Francisco Bay Area home for over 10,000 years. To the north, now Marin and southern Sonoma County, is Coast Miwok land. San Francisco down to the Peninsula is the traditional territory of the Ramaytush Ohlone.

In 1769, Spanish settlers arrived and in the following centuries the area began to change. By 1849, many people had flocked to California in search of gold. Wealth and population grew with San Francisco becoming a major city in the process. California became a state in 1850 and the U.S. military established posts on coastal lands including Fort Point, Alcatraz and the Presidio.

By 1970, a local activist group, People for a Golden Gate National Recreation Area, organized to stop land development in the Marin Headlands. They partnered with local politicians and lawmakers to create a park instead. On October 27, 1972, Congress designated 34,000 acres as Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) as the 264th unit of the National Park Service, including coastal lands in Marin and San Francisco County and Alcatraz Island.

How do individual actions make a difference? GGNRA began with citizens and lawmakers supporting conservation and preservation movements. Today, the park preserves centuries of overlapping culture and history while protecting open spaces for wildlife and recreation.

1978-2022 FORT FUNSTON Frank Morse
c.1978 FORT FUNSTON, Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives | 2022 FORT FUNSTON, Frank Morse

What The Park Is Today

Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a unique national park now totaling 82,000 acres. The legislative boundary extends as far north to Tomales Bay in Marin County and south to Phleger Estate in San Mateo. With 37 sites, including the Presidio of San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument and Fort Point National Historic Site, the park is home to 130 miles of trails and 1,200 historic structures.

Civil rights and environmental justice are a part of human history that is still being written. As a proud member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, GGNRA is a safe place to remember the past. Park programs, K-12 curriculum, and exhibits invite visitors to make connections between the past and the present.

How do individual actions make a difference? All park sites are maintained and preserved with the support of our communities. The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy became the primary partner over 40 years ago. Since 1994, the Presidio Trust has been integral to the Presidio’s continued survival. California State Parks and other partners support us with land management. Local volunteers, educators and partnership organizations are at the heart of the park.

A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, GGNRA encompasses 19 distinct environments with more than 2,000 plant and animal species. With the mission to preserve these ecosystems, the park has been part of the Golden Gate Biosphere Network since 1988.

1970 - 2022 OCEAN BEACH, LANDS END Steven Nguyen
c.1970 OCEAN BEACH, LANDS END, Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives | 2022 OCEAN BEACH, LANDS END, Steven Nguyen

Where The Park Is Headed

When we burn fossil fuels for energy, we add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The result is global warming and extreme weather events. Sea level rise, shifts in ocean circulation and chemistry, and severe droughts occur more often.

Ongoing climate change will drive park management decisions into the future. The National Park Service is taking action to reduce fossil fuel emissions across operations. Educating staff and visitors on ways to take climate action is a top priority.

How do individual actions make a difference? In the 1970s, Americans recycled only about seven percent of their trash. Plastic, cigarette butts, fishing line and other garbage is harmful to our environment when not properly disposed of. Today, almost 34 percent of waste recycled and our landfill use has decreased by about 30 percent.

Global warming threatens biodiversity and our most vulnerable communities. Its size, pace, and impacts cause environmental outcomes that amplify one another, making it increasingly difficult to recover before the next disaster. GGNRA recognizes the impact climate change has on us and the effort it will take to preserve our environment into the future.


Last updated: January 10, 2023

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Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Building 201, Fort Mason

San Francisco, CA 94123-0022


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