Saturday, September 20, 2008

Opening of Mission Creek Sports Park

'Volleyball under a freeway! exclaimed San Fran's mayor, Gavin Newsom this afternoon. 'This is an example for the nation!'

His statement heralded the opening of a visionary sports park at Mission Creek, a park he defined as not just iconic for San Francisco but for the nation.

Several hundred people today were celebrating the Grand Opening of the Mission Creek Sports Park in downtown San Fran as part of the 2008 Mission Bay Parks Festival. They also saw the festival inaugurated as an annual event in the city's calendar.

The sports park, sited literally under the expressway, is a triumphant reclamation of 4.5 acres of neglected, partly shady land.

The former disused land lies at the end of the creek running down from the Giants' ballpark. It's sporty and recreational makeover includes a designer kayak house, beach volleyball, basket ball and tennis courts, garden and grassy areas, a children's playground and dog park, in part artistically designed around enormous concrete pillars that support the freeway. Restroom facilities are soon to be added.

To mark the occasion a great number of activities took place from early morning to mid-afternoon, including sports and face-painting for children, a charity event, and informative displays on conservation and development of the Mission Bay area. There was also a band that played throughout the day, a couple of local artists, and stalls promoting Mercy Housing and rental or purchase of newly-built condos and apartments.

'Candidly, I saw the vision of this project a few years ago but you never know how well things are going to turn out,' said Mayor Newsom. The outcome, he said, had exceeded his expectations.

Standing alongside the translucent blue Kayak House, he recounted taking a kayaking trip from Sausalito.

'I got out under the Golden Gate Bridge! I ain't never going to do it again! he said. With a glance at the far gentler waters of the creek, he smiled, 'This is more my style!'

Thrilled at the benefits that the park will bring to the community, he said that the city had also redone 70 parks and playgrounds in every community.

Two Proclamations were presented to formally establish the park and also the Mission Bay Parks Festival as an annual event.

One, signed by the mayor on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco, was read out by compere Corinne Woods, Chair of the Mission Bay Citizens Advisory Committee.

The second, a brief one from the California Legislature, was read by Francee Covington, Commission President of the SF Redevelopment Agency, and is as follows:

"Congratulations on celebrating the Grand Opening of the Mission Creek Sports Park. I commend your efforts in providing recreational facilities for the benefit of the community. Your dedication and commitment continue to contribute to the public wellbeing. Congratulations and thank you for all that you do!' It was signed by Assemblyman Mark Leno.

Commenting on the park, the Commission President said, 'This is a gorgeous park and I'm happy to be here,' adding that it is the fifth one in Mission Bay.

The Director of the Redevelopment Agency, Mr Fred Blackwell, also spoke. He called the park a 'wonderful' achievement.

'I'm new at the job,' he said, 'I get the opportunity to get the credit for a lot of things that have gone on here!'

He described the urban development project as a 'mixed use area' that is transit-oriented and includes retail and commercial units, and housing.

The area is a showcase for some of the latest expensive apartments and condos, but Mr Blackwell said 30 per cent was affordable housing to reflect the entire city of San Francisco.

At the end of the main speeches, a long turquoise ribbon attached to kayak paddles was unfurled. Mayor Newsom, waving a large pair of scissors, cheerfully invited all those who wanted to join him to stand behind it!

A small number of people eagerly clustered with Maxwell the beagle in centre spot.

And then with the whole crowd giving a hearty countdown followed by a few - wrist-wrenching! -snips...San Francisco had one of the most innovative parks in the country and a new festival.

***other interviews to follow***

Click here for an album of pics

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