This is a special post by contributor David Young, courtesy of our friends at Hoodline.
Nestled on the southern slope of Bernal Heights, just behind the hill’s more famous peak, Holly Park one of the least well-known parks in San Francisco. Yet with a history that dates back over 150 years, Holly Park is also one of the oldest parks in the city. Thankfully, lots of effort by determined neighbors and local nonprofits have combined to ensure that Holly Park doesn’t show its age. Today it remains a prime destination for dog walkers, young families, and in-the-know San Franciscans.
Holly Park was established in 1862, when silver magnate James Graham Fair purchased the 7.5-acre parcel for $375,000 and deeded it to the city. At the time, the area around it, called Bernal Rancho, was almost entirely undeveloped, so residents had little access to the new public land. That was the case until 1894, when the Holly Park Improvement Club convinced the city to build Holly Park Avenue (now known as Holly Park Circle). The street gave the rapidly expanding neighborhood a park they could finally call their own.
It took until 1926 for the unremarkable collection of small trees and shrubs on Holly Park to be replaced by proper landscaping. Basketball and tennis courts were added, along with a playground and the park’s now-towering eucalyptus trees. That was a triumph, but it was also was the last major improvement the park received for decades. Despite consistent popularity, large sections of the park fell into disarray over the decades. By 1991, citing hazardous conditions, Rec and Park fenced in the playground.
Fortunately, that sad state of affairs did not last long. In the early 2000s, Bernal neighbor Eugenie Marek enjoyed taking early morning walks around the neighborhood. Circling Holly Park, she regularly noted the poor state of the park’s facilities. In March, 2000 voters had allocated $110 million for open-space improvements, so Neighbor Eugenie organized Friends of Holly Park and developed a proposal to upgrade the park grounds. The proposal collected over 200 signatures and was passed by the city in 2002. Two years later, renovations were completed and the park was once again reopened.
Today, Holly Park is a regular destination for locals. A short, five-minute walk from the commercial strip of Cortland Ave., Holly Park is a great place to enjoy breathtaking views of the Bay from a unique southern vantage point. It’s even better with children: In 2006, the Chronicle rated the playground Holly Park one of the best in San Francisco. There’s a lot to love, including the baseball diamond, a tennis court, a basketball court, picnic and BBQ areas, and an upgraded playground.
Holly Park is located at Holly Park Circle, south of Cortland Ave. The park is is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The picnic tables and barbecue pits can be booked through the SF Rec and Park website.
IMAGES: Top, detail from Whitaker & Kelley: Map of Bernal Heights, June 1889. Below, 2016 photo of Holly Park baseball diamond, by David Young.