National Geographic : 2016 Apr
Urban Parks 93 When I released my hold on my mother’s hand and turned back, Even an owl cried. So did I. I sat on a stool at the edge of a gathering of retirees and listened, and eventually a wom- an with a sweet smile and a firm insistence asked me to dance. We shuffled to the music, holding hands, joined like the city and the park that runs through it. “This is where it all began,” said Amy Meyer, as we pulled into the driveway of Fort Miley, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area at the northwestern edge of San Fran- cisco. A coyote stood in the middle of the road and stared at us, in no apparent hurry to move. Though the National Park Service has main- tained a presence in cities for years (it over- sees the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for example), the creation of Golden Gate is considered a turning point in the urban parks movement. Meyer is now 82, and by turns gracious and feisty. In 1969 she was a stay-at-home mother when she heard about plans to build an archives center at Fort Miley, a largely empty coastal defense site a few blocks from her house. She began organizing to save the space as open land and eventually joined forces with activists on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge who were alarmed that suburban sprawl might destroy the austere beauty of the Marin Headlands. Golden Gate, along with Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey, was established in 1972. These new parks sig- naled a move by the Park Service to look beyond its wilderness parks to more accessible places closer to America’s cities. As Walter Hickel, sec- retary of the interior and former governor of Alaska, said at the time, “We have got to bring 1660 ST. JAMES’S PARK LONDON, ENGLAND British soldiers march in the annual summer parade that marks the queen’s official birthday. The route runs through the park, which is adjacent to Buckingham Palace. Once a swamp, then the site of a hospital for patients with leprosy, the land became royal property in 1532, when Henry VIII acquired it as a preserve for deer hunting. When Charles II became king, he opened the grounds to London- ers, creating one of the earliest public parks.