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August 25th marks the 100th Anniversary of America’s National Park Service, and celebrations are happening at some of the best-known natural wonders in this country. Places like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains. Among these famous national treasures are some lesser known gems like the Presidio that hold not just great historical importance, but also a glimpse into how the National Parks are evolving and making themselves sustainable for the future.
The Presidio today is a lively mix of residential areas, local businesses, and natural landscapes. Strolling through the beautiful open spaces or admiring the restored historical buildings, it’s easy to forget that the story of the Presidio could have turned out much differently. It took a tremendous amount of imagination, cooperation, and hard work over many years to turn this dilapidated US Army property into the now-thriving National Park at the heart of today’s San Francisco. It was a labor of love for many people to make sure that this priceless piece of San Francisco’s past would be available for the public to enjoy in the future.
In 1996, Congress chartered the Presidio Trust, which brought together the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, a nonprofit membership organization. The partnership benefited from the conservation knowledge and stability of the National Park Service, and the energy and community ties of the GGNRA. Many other partners have provided scientific expertise, community volunteers, and other contributions of time and money.
Under this innovative management model, the Presidio Trust has been able to leverage four dollars of private funding from foundations, individuals, and investors for every dollar of taxpayer funding. By 2013 the Presidio had fulfilled its mandate to become financially self-sustaining. What was a bold experiment in park management in 1994 has now become a model for other National Parks as they consider how to sustain themselves in the future.
The Inn at the Presidio is a perfect example of this partnership in action. The restoration of the historic Pershing Hall (the former Army bachelor’s quarters) was undertaken with sensitivity to the beautiful 1903 Georgian-Revival architecture, but also adhering to the highest environmental standards. The Inn has earned LEED Gold certification and is recognized as a San Francisco Green Business, signifying our commitment to a healthy environment and community.
The Presidio’s vision for the future includes more exciting archaeological exploration, more restoration of natural habitat and historical structures, and expansion of the park’s role as a vital space for San Franciscans and visitors to live, work and play. As the Presidio Trust lays out in their Strategy 2020 document,
“If the last two decades have been largely about saving the Presidio, the next two decades are about sharing it.”