Field of Vision
San Francisco’s pioneering airfield balances diverse uses
and a complex past.
By Katherine Melcher
On a bright, sunny Saturday in May, San Franciscans flock to Crissy
Field, eager for sunshine and recreation, open space and fresh air.
On East Beach, kite-boarders are pumping up their large, paraglider-like
sails. Harnessed to their kites, they walk to San Francisco Bay,
signal others to launch them, and jump onto their boards. As the
wind pulls them into the bay, they dodge the sailboats that race
toward the Golden Gate Bridge.
People dressed in new athletic gear, primarily in their 20s and
30s, run by on the Golden Gate Promenade, a part of the Bay Trail
connecting Fort Point to the marina. Some push strollers with babies;
some are led by dogs. Two small boys climb up on the seat walls,
jump onto the soft sand below, raise their hands above their heads,
and roar. An older man sits on a bench and reads a book. A rainbow
kite flies up in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The new design includes
beaches, a promenade, and restored marsh and dune habitats,
as well as the restored historic airfield.
Fields of Vision:
Hargreaves Associate copyright Robert Campbell
By late morning, the promenade is packed. Groups in matching T-shirts,
participating in “Great Strides,” a walk for a cystic
fibrosis cure, march along the promenade. Off toward the bay, walking
between the sand dunes, people find some respite from the crowded
promenade. Half a dozen dogs on the beach run out into the water
to fetch sticks and balls thrown by their owners. Farther down,
benches within a small grove of cypress trees provide a more secluded
place to sit and look out over the bay.
The restored historic airfield is remarkably vacant in comparison.
On the 28-acre field of grass clumps, one man tries to teach his
puppy to fetch, while a man and his son set off model rockets. At
other times of the year, for festivals or the Fourth of July fireworks,
the field is covered with people. But today’s urban recreation
preferences are for running and walking over sunbathing and FrisbeeTM
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