National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Making music at the Ashville festival, Blue Ridge Parkway
Restoration of Crissy Field

Description: Crissy Field was converted from a former military use to a world-class waterfront park through a $34.5 million capital campaign completed by the Golden Gate National Parks Association (later renamed the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy) in coordination with Golden Gate National Parks. The project includes the creation of a 20-acre tidal marsh, a 29-acre open space grassy meadow, a 1.5-mile promenade and the Crissy Field Center, which complements and enhances the use of Crissy Field as an outdoor learning center.

The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy is the official nonprofit sponsor of the restoration of Crissy Field and the designated cooperating association of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The National Park Service (NPS) provided overall direction and guidance in their efforts.

The conversion of Crissy Field from a military post to national parkland provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore the site's unique ecology, rich history, and scenic beauty. The opportunity to plan the transformation was enhanced by a $100,000 planning grant in 1987 from the family of longtime park champion, Walter J. Haas, through the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund. Through their ongoing support for park activities, the Haas Fund responded favorably to the NPS and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy goal of making Crissy Field relevant to the diversity of the Bay Area community. The Crissy Field restoration goals closely dovetailed with the Haas Fund's commitment to support projects that strengthen children, youth, and families and promote diversity and inclusiveness.

Upon transfer to the National Park Service, the 1994 Presidio General Management Plan Amendment called for a complete restoration of Crissy Field. The project has been guided by four key principles: restoration, remediation, recycling, and renewal.

Upon completion of the planning process and environmental review which took almost ten years, implementation was stimulated by the Haas family's leadership gifts to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy totaling $18 million ($14 million from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund and $4 million from the Colleen and Robert Haas Fund). The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy raised an additional $16.5 million in funds to complete the project. The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy operates programs on Crissy Field and at the Crissy Field Center and manages the Osher Endowment for Environmental Education at Crissy Field raised through the capital campaign.

After nearly a decade of planning, which began in 1987, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the NPS began the actual restoration of Crissy Field in 1997. By November 1999, the large-scale remediation, clean up and site redesign was completed, making the area safe for volunteers to begin restoration efforts. A "Help Grow Crissy Field Campaign" was then launched, which included direct mail, billboards, banners, and bus shelter ads. This campaign recruited over 3,000 volunteers from schools, community-based groups and individuals, who placed 100,000 native plants and completed the bulk of the restoration work by summer 2000. A Saturday drop-in volunteer program was then established to maintain and nurture the restoration and the sense of connection that many volunteers developed at Crissy Field.

Geographic area covered: The 100-acre Crissy Field site is located just inside the Golden Gate along the Presidio of the San Francisco waterfront in California.

List of partners and relationships: The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the National Park Service and the numerous contributors and community-based partners.

Accomplishments to date:

  1. Capital Campaign raised $34.5 million.
  2. Community awareness of the project.
  3. Largest community-based park undertaking in the history of San Francisco.
  4. Transformation of an area into a vibrant destination for recreation, relaxation, education and community celebration.
  5. A 1.5-mile fully accessible shoreline promenade, trails and boardwalks.
  6. Restoration of a 20-acre tidal marsh linked to San Francisco Bay.
  7. Restoration of a 29-acre open space meadow.
  8. Renovation of former military structure as the Crissy Field Center.
  9. Revitalized beach and shoreline dunes.
  10. Overlooks, picnic and seating areas.
  11. Dedicated path for bicyclists and inline skaters.
  12. The reintroduction of 100,000 native plants.
  13. Improved launch site for boardsailors.
  14. Wheelchair accessible dunes and beach.
  15. Festivals to celebrate the cycles of nature.
  16. Workshops which address urban-environmental issues.
  17. For teachers, Crissy Field became an outdoor classroom. From January - August 2000, this site-specific restoration program introduced 3,900 volunteers from 84 schools and organizations to local natural history, cultural history and restoration ecology.
  18. Completed project is heavily used by the public.

Key success factors:

  1. The partnership's commitment to actively engage community and students in the restoration achieved two important aims - connection and stewardship. For many volunteers, it was their first experience with a natural area and a national park. Being able to see the results of their work both on the day of the activity and over time as the plants mature - allowed many people to develop a sense of ownership for the restoration. When a community establishes a sense of guardianship for an area, it is less likely to be vandalized or used inappropriately.
  2. The project's commitment to "community inclusiveness" created a prominent place for contributions of time and money from individuals and community groups through the Help Grow Crissy Field Campaign. This was a large-scale effort to generate volunteer support and public awareness for the restoration project. Participants were acknowledged as "Local Heroes" and included youth, seniors, individual drop-in volunteers, schools, churches, and area businesses. The Help Grow Crissy Field Campaign provided outreach marketing information through an 800 number, web site and outdoor advertising in three languages: English, Spanish, and Chinese. Whenever possible, activities were staffed with bilingual personnel so that volunteers could enjoy the interpretive aspects of the program and make a strong and long-lasting connection to the site.
  3. The San Francisco Conservation Corps Americorps members were instrumental in efforts to grow Crissy Field through their contribution of more than 30,000 hours of restoration work.
  4. A Youth Advisory Committee was established so that young people would have an active and continuing voice in the planning, design, implementation, and evaluation of programs to be offered at the Crissy Field Center.
  5. The leadership gifts from the Haas Fund set a new standard of giving and opened many doors for the Parks Conservancy to develop relationships within the Bay Area philanthropic community. Many first time donors to this project will continue to support the park and the Parks Conservancy in the future. Many of our corporate volunteer teams returned this year to participate in activities in other areas of the park.

Frustrations: Maintaining momentum and achieving goals in the midst of complex partnerships proved to be a challenge throughout the public campaign. Key partners included the Parks Conservancy, the National Park Service, the Presidio Trust, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, with local neighborhood organizations, user advocacy groups, and the GGNRA Advisory Commission all playing significant roles during the years of planning, fundraising and marketing leading to the opening of Crissy Field. These organizations often had differing objectives and strategies, and hence divergent concerns in a number of areas. Ultimately the campaign's conclusion and the site's opening were success stories of collaboration, forging a new balance of interests charted with patience and a generous allocation of time to communication and coordination.

Most important lessons learned to date: An urban park public campaign conducted both in local ethnic media and more broadly in multiple languages, focused on engaging the community as volunteers, donors and visitors, can bring new community awareness of a national park site, curiosity about site history and cultural resources, enthusiasm for visiting, and a sense of welcome, particularly for people who have not typically visited national parks. Golden Gate National Parks generally, and Crissy Field particularly, now enjoy stakeholders and park-lovers in every neighborhood, ethnic group and generation in San Francisco and the surrounding area.

What would you do differently next time:

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study):

For more information:

Name: Howard Levitt
Affiliation: Chief, Interpretation & Education, GGNRA
Phone/Fax: 415-561-4759

Name: Greg Moore
Affiliation: Exec. Director, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
Phone/Fax: Ph: 415-561-3000/ Fax: 415-561-3003

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising _X_; Capital Improvement _X_; Facility Management _X_; Design _X_; Program Delivery _X_; Visitor Services _X_; Natural Resources Management/Restoration _X_; Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services _X_; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning _X_; Tourism __; Community Relations _X_;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: former Superintendent Brian O'Neill Date posted: 1/27/04
Phone: 415-561-4720

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