277 pages, illustrations, tables
Nestled between the far western edge of San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean, the Presidio served as a military post for over two centuries. An urban enclave with more than 800 buildings and 1500 acres of land, the Presidio is also a beautiful expanse of lush landscapes, natural resources, and recreation areas. When cuts in defense spending forced the post's closure in the late 1980s, these unique and diverse features kindled an initiative to transfer the Presidio to the National Park Service. Reshaping the former U.S. Army base as a park dedicated to environmental education required the most massive planning effort in the Park Service's history.
The arduous but eventually successful conversion is chronicled in this provocative case study of urban environmentalism in action. Lisa Benton places her analysis within the context of the rich military and cultural history of the Presidio, the interdependence between San Francisco and the base, and the conventional missions of the National Park Service. She thoroughly examines the Park Service's recommendation to manage the Presidio with a public/private partnership – an unusual proposal that sparked heated and highly politicized debate in Congress. Benton, who observed many of the hearings and negotiations firsthand, examines the economic, political, social, and environmental complexities raised by the plan, and shows how grass-roots organizations, philanthropists, business and political leaders, and other advocates ultimately helped preserve the Presidio as a showcase for both nature and culture. Her account is a fascinating story of people, institutions, conflict, cooperation, and change.
Benton's insightful study of the Presidio's transformation from Army base to one of the jewels of the National Park Service provides both a better understanding of contemporary land use issues and a model for similar innovations in urban greening.
"Lisa Benton has produced the first in-depth analysis of the evolution of the nation's most exciting new park [...] The Presidio is the park of the future, the emblematic park of a mature and settled country, with hazardous waste, derelict buildings, and an aging planted forest. It is also an incomparably beautiful site dominating the gateway to America [...]"
- William Reilly, former Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency
"The Presidio of San Francisco represents a unique public/private opportunity to create an urban national park of global significance. Here is the story of how that challenge is being met. As such, it provides a powerful insight into the future of our park system and hence, the quality of our civilization."
- Dr Kevin Starr, State Librarian of California
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