Fort Baker

Case Study: Fort Baker

The Goal

To rehabilitate the Fort Baker parade ground to reflect its 1939 character with more sustainable turf that reduces mowing, water, and fertilizer requirements.

The Challenges
Different colored test plots of grass in the parade ground at Fort Baker
Prior to implementation, test plots were used to evaluate the cover, growth, and color of different grass seed mixes and cultivars.

NPS Photo

Fort Baker is a 335-acre former U.S. Army post located immediately to the north of the Golden Gate Bridge that is now a unit of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The core of the park is comprised of over twenty-five historic buildings clustered around a thirteen-acre parade ground. The parade ground is an important historic feature of the cultural landscape. Prior to rehabilitation, the parade ground lawn required a significant commitment of maintenance time and resources to present a well-kept appearance, including regular mowing, irrigation, and fertilization. The resource-intensive maintenance requirements of the parade ground lawn were also misaligned with the new uses of the site: as a national park, eco-friendly luxury resort, conference center, and environmental stewardship program.

The Solutions

The National Park Service identified the Fort Baker historic district for rehabilitation to its 1939 appearance. Buildings, structures, and impermeable asphalt parking lots that post-dated the 1939 treatment date were removed. Missing historic shade trees were replaced with cultivars that were consistent in character with the missing historic trees. New bike lanes and pedestrian walks were installed along the perimeter of the parade ground to encourage recreational use. (The parade ground lawn is not used for events of any type.)

The National Park Service and the park's non-profit partner, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, established several test plots on the parade ground to determine the most appropriate grass species composition for area-wide rehabilitation planting. The team, with consultants Mark Mahady, turf grass specialist, Steve Canepa, native grass specialist, and Colony Landscape, contractor responsible for the installation and maintenance of test plots, monitored lawn cover, growth, and color in the test plots for two years before selecting a substitute hard fescue cultivar with a high heat tolerance, 'Aurora Gold.' A monoculture was planted on the parade ground, understanding that a mix of grass varieties will be the stable end condition.
A wide view of the Fort Baker Parade Ground shows its lush green revival.
Following a three year establishment period, only limited irrigation is used on the Fort Baker parade ground.

NPS Photo

For three years following installation, maintenance staff used an automated irrigation system connected to an on-site weather station to establish sufficient cover. Today, only limited irrigation is used in regular maintenance of the lawn (about 1.3 million gallons of water per year, compared to 15.5 million gallons per year for comparable areas of traditional lawn). The rehabilitated parade ground lawn minimizes pesticide and herbicide use, resulting in a decreased risk of run-off. Additionally, the growth rate of the lawn requires mowing only a few times a year during peak growing season. During the summer months, the lawn is allowed to go dormant, resulting in a rich golden color.

Additional Information

Fort Baker, a unit of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is home to the Cavallo Point Lodge (the first LEED Gold certified national park lodge), the Bay Area Discovery Museum, and the Institute at Golden Gate, a program of the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy designed to facilitate dialogue and action on global environmental issues. All three facilities have strong ties to environmental conservation and education. Learn more about the Fort Baker parade ground rehabilitation on the Golden Gate National Recreation Area website.

Year: 2009
Treatment: Rehabilitation
Landscape Type: Designed, historic military post

Measurable Benefits*

Mowing time savings: 550 hours/year
Mower fuel savings: 660 gallons/year
Potable irrigation water savings: 14.3 million gallons/year

*All figures estimated based on comparison with turf maintenance schedules at nearby park units.

Lawn and buildings at Fort Baker

Services Provided

  • Climate change mitigation/carbon sequestration
  • Urban heat island mitigation
  • Biodiversity/habitat protection and enhancement
  • Recreational/visible green space enhancement
  • Enhanced resilience to withstand change
  • Scientific/cultural information yield

NPS Green Parks Plan Features

  • Continuously Improve Environmental Performance
  • Be Climate Friendly and Climate Ready
  • Be Water Wise
  • Adopt Best Practices
  • Foster Sustainability Beyond Our Boundaries

Last updated: April 25, 2016