Great Explorations: Marina Green

Great Explorations: Marina Green
Photo: Flickr/Solyanka
By Laura Thompson - Published on May 04, 2016.

San Francisco's front yard opens onto the bay with unparalleled views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Angel Island. This is the Marina Green, a series of multi-purpose lawns where you can play a pick-up game of soccer, watch the fireworks on 4th of July, have a picnic or fly a kite. East and West Harbors flank the lawns' watery sides and on land, a section of the San Francisco Bay Trail offers shoreline or inland options for runners, amblers, dog walkers, bicyclists and rollerbladers along paved paths.

Jogging along the Bay Trail at Marina Green. (Photo: Laura Thompson/Hoodline)

Located on the north side of Marina Boulevard between Buchanan Street and Yacht Road, Marina Green is divided into three distinct spaces. On the east side is the Marina Green Triangle, next to the Fort Mason Center parking lot and East Harbor. Fitness Court is set up here, part of the National Fitness Campaign and among the most beautiful settings for an outdoor gym ever imagined.

Moving west, enter the largest part of Marina Green. This can be a busy place on a warm sunny afternoon with field sports, boot camps, marathons and community events. On a windy day, this is the place to fly a kite in the city. In addition to Independence Day fireworks, thousands gather here annually for Fleet Week in October to watch the air and water show, and in June, the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon stages the race at the park.

Field sports are a popular activity at the Marina Green. Photo: Laura Thompson/Hoodline

At the West Harbor, the San Francisco Marina and the St. Francis and Golden Gate Yacht Clubs are located between Scott and Baker streets. Renovations to the marina are still underway, including a reconfiguration of the Bay Trail near the seawall to separate a parking area from bicyclists and pedestrians.

The western-most space is Little Marina Green, at Baker Street. Smaller than its eastern counterpart, this lawn is a great picnic or volleyball spot and the gateway to Crissy Field and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

1888 view of Cow Hollow before the Marina District was created through landfill. (Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library History Center)

Prior to the 1906 earthquake, this part of the northern waterfront was drifting sand and tidal marsh. But in the aftermath of the fire, rubble from damaged buildings was dumped into the bay. In preparation for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, more wetlands were filled to make room for ephemeral palaces and monuments celebrating the city’s rebirth in the wake of devastation.

After the world's fair, Marina Green became an aviation field and air mail terminal known as Marina Airfield. The city began to develop on the new land around the green, creating the Marina District we know today. The stately houses that line Marina Boulevard were constructed in the 1920s and '30s, featuring large bay windows to take in the view.

A 1928 view looking east down Marina Boulevard from Fillmore Street. State Belt Railroad tracks are visible along edge of Marina Green. The house still stands on the corner. (Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library History Center)

In 1914, the State Belt Railroad was extended from Fort Mason along Marina Green to the Presidio, serving these military sites during both world wars. The historic tracks are buried under the paved trail adjacent to Marina Boulevard.

Today, the Marina Green is managed by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and the lawns can be reserved for special events by calling (415) 831-5500. Rec & Park posts an event calendar for 2016: consult it for scheduling on everything from regattas to triathlons to a host of 5K foot races throughout the year. 

Getting there: The 22-Fillmore stops at Fillmore and Bay streets, four blocks from the park. The 30-Stockton stops at Divisadero and Jefferson streets, one block from the West Marina. Large parking lots surround the Green, but they fill up on weekends and during events. The park and trails are wheelchair accessible. Public restrooms and drinking fountains are located in all three areas of Marina Green.