Candlestick State Recreation Area History

It started life as landfill to be used by the US Navy in World War II as a shipyard. Then, abandoned as the war ended, it became a garbage dump. But in nearby Bayview Hunters Point, a group of residents led by Claude Everhart, administrative assistant to Assemblyman Art Agnos, viewed it as open space for a park. They took their proposal for a state park to Assemblyman Willie Brown, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and won his approval in 1973. Brown put a $10 million park bond into the budget to acquire the site’s 170 not-so-green acres. In 1976 Assemblyman Agnos introduced the bill designating Candlestick Park as Candlestick Point State Recreation Area. Signed by Governor Jerry Brown, in 1977 it became the first state park purposely acquired to bring the State Park System into an urban setting. The other Candlestick Park is the sports stadium next door to it. But that’s another story.

Projected site for Candlestick Park, 1957. Credit: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Concurrently in 1976, Claude Everhart was firing up the Friends of Candlestick Park and serving as chairman of its 15 members. They needed to hold community meetings throughout the Bay Area, which this regional park would serve. With State Park Planning Commissioners Carlos Espinosa and Judy Chan, they mapped and carried out 100 such meetings over the next four years. “Carlos and Judy were terrific,” says Claude, adding, “I loved them to death.”

Candlestick’s extreme makeover began in 1978 with approval by the State Park and Recreation Department of the landscape architect’s plan. In 1979 a $1 million donation from the Campeau Corporation funded construction of the first of the two fishing piers, as well as the purchase of tables, chairs and barbecue grills for the four group picnic sites. After $2 million more was raised, Candlestick’s grand opening was celebrated later that year by the Assembly’s Art Agnos and Willie Brown, the Friends of Candlestick and the jubilant community.

Named for a native bird, the candlestick, or Long-billed Curlew, the park offers visitors stunning views of San Francisco Bay, the East Bay Hills and San Bruno Mountain, as well as a buffet of outdoor activity. Visitors can fish for halibut, striped bass, perch or sturgeon; birdwatch for waterfowl and shorebirds, pelicans and egrets; windsurf in the bay; hike or bike on the trails; plant in the 48-plot community garden; picnic in sheltered areas; walk their dogs on controlled leashes. The fitness trail along the park’s shoreline is a par course with stations and exercise equipment suitable for all ages from elementary school youth to seniors with limited mobility. All asphalt trails and restrooms in the developed area are accessible.

But accessibility to the Park itself is now in code red danger. The Governor’s FY 08-09 state budget proposes to close 48 state parks, including Candlestick Point SRA, one of the few flat open spaces in Bayview Hunters Point and a critical wetland and wildlife habitat. In addition to the obvious loss to the community of access to a wonderful natural area, closure of the park also threatens the remediation project underway to address the dangerous military and industrial contamination at the north edge.of the park.

A coalition of environmentalists and Bayview residents, including NPC, is vigorously opposing the closure of Candlestick and the loss of this important asset in our Bay Area open space system. “We need to find a better way to reduce the deficit than closing the parks people depend on,” says Claude adding, “They’re the jewels in the crown for the State Parks System.” Claude, who knows how the system works, and Friends are campaigning to keep the jewel shining and open. You can follow progress in the campaign and join in actions planned by visiting NPC’s website for updates: http://oldsite.sfnpc.org/stopstateparkcuts

–Jeanne Alexander

Established: 1977
Location: Candlestick Point exit off U.S. 101
Transportation: #$29 bus; call 311 for nearest stop
Contact: Claude Everhart, 510.383.9343