San Francisco – Everyday Insider (TM) Trip 14C

World and local events – from military campaigns to the rise of aviation, from World Fairs to earthquakes – left their mark on the 1,500 acres and historic buildings which make up San Francisco’s Presidio. Come enjoy the history and beauty there.

The Presidio is probably the most important natural refuge in the San Francisco Bay Area because it contains many habitats and undeveloped natural areas and is the last vestige of the original Bay ecology within the City.

Now that it is no longer an army base, you can explore centuries of architecture, from the times when it served to defend 3 nations, high above the entrance to what became known as San Francisco Bay.

Apart from the section set aside as a national cemetery, you can walk through an historic airfield, forests, beaches and admire spectacular vistas, including the Golden Gate Bridge, from the ocean side!

In fact, San Francisco’s Presidio was over 100-million years in the making.

Its geography, climate and geology result in a complex natural history and a rich diversity of life. The Presidio is a unique world within an increasingly urban world. That’s what makes it all the more of a treasure and all the more important to reclaim its natural diversity and preserve it.

From birds to plants the ecosystems here can be found in only a few other places on the planet. Many species have a very limited geographic range (endemic species) and mainly exist just here.Thirteen are unique or endangered at the Presidio.

These small islands of life are always at risk, so much so that a seemingly insignificant act – like picking a flower – can affect the plant for a year. And, a thoughtlessly tossed plastic bottle will still be around a half-century later.

So, to have this natural, at-risk gem in the heart of a city now means we have to be responsible, caring visitors, and go way beyond stewardship of the land and into active reclamation and re-establishment of habitat. After all, it was in Army hands for 218 years!

When discovered by European explorers about 300 years ago, you wouldn’t believe all the large mammals roaming the Presidio. But the European settlers changed everything:

___ they hunted with guns, so many large animals disappeared
___ settlers replaced the natural dune scrub with non-native grazing grass for their domestic herds
___ a city rose and the grizzly bears, Tule elk and deer who had survived their hunts disappeared further afield
___ familiar small urban mammals like raccoons and skunks took over the habitat niches
___ the settlers cut down the few native trees which survived there and they started many non-native plants to compete with the endemic plants

Now, gray foxes are still holding out and even the coyote is back in the park. Help protect these animals by not feeding them! It is important for them to be wary of humans and to stay on their natural diets.

The Presidio has one of the most diverse bird populations found in any urban park in the world; there are over 200 species.

This diversity is possible because of the variety of different habitats at the area near the Golden Gate: from the open ocean to the protected bay. There are tidal marshes, coastal scrub, grasslands and mixed woodlands.

Also, the Presidio lies on a major bird migratory route, the Pacific Flyway, along the West Coast of the United States so it is a welcome stop-over for birds coming in from as far away as the Arctic and South America. Bring some binoculars and a good camera!

In the spring and early summer, wildflowers also abound in many of the Presidio’s natural areas and the National Park Service and California Native Plant Society are busy replanting reclaimed native areas with endangered plants.

To get baseline statistics on their success at re-introduction, Park stewards comb the far corners of the Presidio’s remaining natural areas to census and map the plant populations every one to three years.

The majority of the rare plants in the Presidio are found in either dune or serpentine niche communities because invasive non-native plants are not able to dominate these nutrient-poor areas.

So far, the results are encouraging, so when you visit, please stay on the trails to protect these rare plants.

You can bring a picnic or eat in one of the organic cafes set up in some of the historic buildings on the grounds. More on the select businesses in the historic Presidio tomorrow.

Part 1: San Francisco Everyday Insider

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

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