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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.

Field of Vision
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 throwing.

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