By Casey Michie
On an east facing hillside along San Francisco’s northern waterfront sits Black Point Historic Gardens, the newest addition to San Francisco’s long list of renowned recreation areas. Upon the park’s opening on Aug. 25, guests will be able to gaze out across the San Francisco skyline, expanses of the Bay Bridge, bustling Fisherman’s Wharf, and the meandering boats across the bay; all from a vantage point closed to the public for over 50 years.
Nestled between Fort Mason and Aquatic Park, the one-acre Black Point Historic Gardens will also offer guests much more than views alone. A stroll along the restored pathways will offer visitors an opportunity to marvel at an array of plant species and appreciate all those that walked the same slopes generations before them.
The rich history of Black Point transcends eras. Protected from the westward winds that howl through the Golden Gate, Black Point was originally home to the Ohlone people. As years passed Spanish settlers, hopeful 49’ers, and both the Mexican and American military occupied the point.
A notable resident of the area, John C. Fremont, one of the first senators of California, lived on a farmstead at Black Point along with his wife, Jesse Fremont. However, fearing an invasion of Confederate ships through the Golden Gate during the Civil War, the American military seized the land to build an installation. Black Point remained in the American military’s possession until the 1970s, when it was transferred to the management of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
For more than 50 years, the area sat dormant, fenced off and left to the devices of invasive plant species. That is until 2017, when the Park Conservancy and National Park Service began a years-long project to restore the point into its former natural glory.
A team of dedicated volunteers led by garden project managers, Shelagh Fritz and Natalie Korengold, worked tirelessly to restore the grounds. However, the work to restore the park to its natural state was met with unforeseen setbacks of the current times.
“The biggest challenge of working at Black Point historic gardens was not having volunteer help during the restrictions of COVID-19. With only two staff, it was a struggle to see progress,” Fritz notes, “COVID also greatly impacted our funding for the purchase of plants. We received a generous donation of native grasses but we are still in need of more plants to provide colorful blooms.”
Despite the challenges, the hard work is already paying off as residents express excitement about the new recreational addition to the San Francisco waterfront.
Michael Wurm, a resident of the Marina District, notes, “I have spent years walking by this area, and I am excited to see this land finally opened to the public. It will be a great addition to both our community and the City of San Francisco.”
Fritz similarly expressed content with the hard work her team has dedicated to the garden, noting, “The biggest highlight [of the project] was seeing the wildflower seed mix bloom this past spring, covering the hillside with yellow and pink flowers.”
Managers of the garden hope the area will serve as a place to teach people about the local ecosystem and the challenges it faces due to climate change.
“I hope Black Point historic gardens will impact the community by providing a welcoming green space right in the middle of a busy area of the city,” Fritz notes on the magic of the area, “We aim to host volunteer programs to care for these gardens and to interest future garden guests in horticulture, climate change and urban pollinator habitat.”
Whether you are searching for views of the city, a stroll through diverse gardens, or a chance to appreciate San Francisco history, Black Point Historic Gardens offers something for both residents and tourists alike. As Beatrice Kilate, Media and Communication Specialist for Golden Gate National Park Conservancy, writes, “There’s history underfoot in the gardens: come make your way.”