Amid stay-at-home order, San Francisco has newfound appreciation for iconic Golden Gate Park on its 150th anniversary

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This weekend marked the 150th anniversary of one of California’s iconic public spaces, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, but a planned grand celebration was not to be.

Instead, the coronavirus crisis has prompted a new appreciation for the park, television station KPIX in San Francisco reported Saturday.

“Today is supposed to be sunny, and they’re supposed to be 150,000 of us, arm in arm, singing and dancing, and riding the big observation wheel,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of San Francisco Recreaction & Parks. “Instead, you and I are both kind of alone, social distancing, and in the rain. But, you know, in a sense, maybe it’s a little poetic.”

Under a steady rain and the unseeable viral cloud that has changed all of our lives, Golden Gate Park’s 150th birthday was an understated one, at least compared to what had been planned.

The park actually kicked off a full year of celebration back in January, also on a day that brought a driving rain, and nothing since has gone according to plan.

This has been a remarkable year. But this park has seen more than a few of them.

“Golden Gate Park is a big part of our city’s collective memory, its collected history,” Ginsburg said. “It has certainly been here for us and all the joyous times, but it has also been here for us in crisis, right? This is not its only pandemic. There have been a few others. It’s been here for two earthquakes, an AIDS crisis. It’s been here in the sun, it’s been here in the fog, and, yes, it’s been here in the rain.”

Ginsburg sees the park as a lifeline during this crisis, and even in Saturday’s rain, people came for it.

It is hard to know what longtime park superintendent John McLaren would have wanted for Golden Gate’s 150th birthday, but it’s also hard to imagine circumstances that could make us more grateful for his work.

“I know we are supposed to be inside as much as possible, and we’re supposed to be social distancing, which I hope we’re all doing in the park,” Ginsburg said. “But wellness means a lot of things. It’s both mental wellness and physical well-being. And the time outside, the time in nature, the time in this beloved 1,017-acre park has never been more important.”

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