Monday, February 6, 2012

Spring Into Fun with Rec and Park!

Spring registration begins Saturday, March 3!

Springtime is often associated with a sense of renewal and rebirth, and at Rec and Park, we offer an amazing array of activities for you and your family that will get you recharged and rejuvenated for the upcoming summer season.

From zumba classes for mom and men’s dodgeball for dad, to Junior Picasso art classes for the kids and mahjong for grandma and grandpa, our programs will pique your interest and have you coming back for more. We truly have something for everyone.

Our programs continue to be a reflection of our commitment to families in San Francisco. Class offerings are affordable and convenient, and you won’t find a group of employees more passionate about recreation than our creative and dedicated staff at Rec and Park.

I invite you all to discover what’s in store for you this spring. Browse our catalog beginning February 13 and register online or in person at 13 sites throughout the city beginning March 3.

Also, on Saturday, April 7, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., join us for Spring Eggstravaganza 2012 at Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park, featuring egg hunts, carnival rides, games, live entertainment and our annual Rib Cook-Off between Rec and Park, the San Francisco Fire Department and the San Francisco Police Department.

Get out and play!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Season of Sharing

City parks and playgrounds will soon receive a bounding bounty of basketballs—650 in all—courtesy of the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, which recently wrapped up an art exhibit featuring the balls in the form of a large pyramid.
Artist David Huffman designed the art piece as part of an exhibit entitled, “SHIFT,” which was intended to spark dialogue about race in America.
The balls were initially donated to the Arts Commission Gallery by local sporting good purveyor Sports Basement.

The balls are earmarked for the Recreation and Park Department’s youth and girls basketball programs and will also be distributed for free play at recreation centers and clubhouses throughout the city. Basketball remains one of the most popular and widely played sports in the city.
In this season of sharing, we are truly thankful for this gift from the Arts Commission and Sports Basement. These balls will help support our recreation programs and ensure that every kid in this city has a chance to get out and play.

* * *

On December 8, we celebrated our 82nd annual Holiday Tree Lighting, a tradition that started back in 1929 when "Uncle" John McLaren, our first park superintendent, began lighting a mile-long stretch of trees on Fell Street that ended at McLaren Lodge, his home at the time.

Hundreds of kids and their parents braved the cold to enjoy what has got to be one of Rec and Park's best events.  Carnival rides, arts and crafts, a cookie factory, live entertainment and even sled rides on "real" snow--- it was simply amazing to see all of the happy, smiling faces roaming about.

Mayor Ed Lee joined us to help light the tree, a 131-year-old Monterey cypress that stands over 100-feet tall and sports 29 strands of lights and over 700 bulbs.   Also in attendance were Police Chief Greg Suhr; Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White; Supervisors Sean Elsbernd, Mark Farrell and Scott Wiener; Treasurer Jose Cisneros; and members of the Recreation and Park Commission.

It was a particularly special visit for Chief Hayes-White, who was accompanied by members of Station 26.  Our paint crew, led by Joe Padilla, painted this year's train in honor of the men and women who protect us each and every day.

Hats off to our staff, who once again proved to be the best and hardest working bunch of city workers ever.  From our recreation staff to electricians, tree toppers, heavy equipment crews, park rangers and parks staff-- everyone had a hand in making the event a success.

What a way to officially kick off the holiday season! 

(Photo from

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beach Chalet Soccer Fields Need Some Help

Four years ago, the soccer fields at Crocker Amazon Park were dilapidated and used only as a last option by recreational athletes and families alike. Today, thanks to a multimillion-dollar renovation project and the generosity of the City Fields Foundation, Crocker is teeming with activity. Every day after school, 500 boys and girls swarm the soccer complex for league games and practices. In the evening, another 500 people play on the lighted fields well into the night.

The Beach Chalet Soccer Fields complex is another primary ground sports athletic facility in San Francisco.  During the fall, more than 1,550 kids and 600 adults play at Beach Chalet each week, but built more than 75 years ago, with the last renovation coming in 1998, the fields are unsafe and in poor condition due to heavy use, abundant gopher holes, and year-round wet conditions. One of the four fields is always out of commission for rest and regrowth, leaving, at most, three open fields at any given time.

Despite constant use by kids, Beach Chalet lacks some basic family-friendly amenities: clean restrooms, changing stations, play/picnic areas, and spectator seating.

A proposed renovation of Beach Chalet with lights and synthetic turf would eliminate all dangerous gopher holes and more than triple the amount of play on the fields. Currently, the fields host 4,738 hours of annual play. The proposed renovation will add 9,582 hours of new play each year, especially significant when the demand for athletic fields in the city is at an all-time high.

The renovation will also make the facility much more family-friendly and inviting for athletes, spectators and park visitors alike.

Install synthetic turf, field lights and spectator seating - Field improvements include high-quality synthetic turf on four fields, all of which will be lined for soccer and two of which will be lined for lacrosse as well. Fields will have state-of-the-art drainage, and they will feature seating for players and spectators and be framed by new lighted perimeter walkways and new vinyl-covered fencing.

Create a viewing plaza - The redesigned spectator plaza proposes a picnic/bbq area along the western edge of the warm-up area, with new picnic tables and barbeques as well as new drinking fountains, bike racks, trash/recycling cans, seat walls and landscaping.

Renovate restrooms - Renovations feature a new interior for the restrooms, with 11 stalls in the women’s room, 5 stalls/4 urinals in the men’s room, and diaper changing stations in both rooms. The restroom building will also have a concession booth for group/league use and a Rec/Park storage and mechanical room.

Improve the parking lot - Parking lot updates include a loop design for better traffic flow, new lighting for safety and convenience, and a sidewalk through to JFK Drive. There will be a marked pick-up/drop-off area, as well as 60 bike parking spots, 20 new parking spaces and 4 new disabled parking spaces. Rec/Park maintenance staff will have a new work shed.

Create safe, lit walkways - New lighting on the fields will feature (10) 60' field lights. There will be pathway lighting to the northern spectator seating, to the parking lot and to the walkways to both JFK Drive and the Great Highway. The plaza and picnic/bbq areas will also be illuminated.

In the next two weeks, beginning Wednesday, November 16, you’ll have an opportunity to weigh in on the renovation project.

Beach Chalet Fields Historic Preservation Hearing
November 16, 2011 at 12:30 PM
San Francisco City Hall, Planning Commission Chambers, Room 400

Beach Chalet Fields Draft Environmental Review Hearing
December 1, 2011 at 1:30 PM
San Francisco City Hall, Planning Commission Chambers, Room 400

I hope to see you there.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Circus Comes to Moscone Park

People often say life at Rec and Park is like a circus, and on October 25, they couldn’t have been more correct, when cast members of the new Cirque du Soleil show here in San Francisco showed up at Moscone Rec Center to help celebrate new improvements at the park.

In September, Cirque du Soleil (through EcoMedia) gifted nearly $32,000 to the department for a new remote lighting system at Moscone, Lang and Jackson ball fields. The new system allows our staff to control, monitor, and manage field lights from any computer or smartphone, entering in detailed lighting schedules field by field, down to the minute. Emergency schedule changes can also be made easily in the case of rain‐outs.

The system reduces energy usage by operating lights only when they are needed. As an automated system, it does not require our staff to travel from field to field to turn lights on and off, as was the case with previous systems.

The new remote system will reduce energy usage by 26% or for a total of 475.5 hours per year. That’s equivalent to about $25,000 a year, a pretty big sum in an era when every penny counts.

These improvements are actually not a first in our department. Thanks to our partnership with the City Fields Foundation, similar remote systems have been installed at Kimbell Playground, Silver Terrace, Fraklin Square, South Sunset, Crocker and Garfield Square, and are performing wonderfully.

These advances are making the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department one of the most technologically advanced and greenest park systems in the country.

I want to thank Cirque du Soleil, EcoMedia, Supervisor Mark Farrell, Hydra Mendoza from the Mayor's Office, SF Environment and the wonderful students from Marina Middle School who came out on Tuesday to help us celebrate.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ParkWide Bike Rentals Rolls Out in City Parks

“Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry, when I take you out in the surrey, when I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top.”

Not many people can say they’ve ridden a surrey through Golden Gate Park with the mayor of San Francisco, but I now can. You can go ahead and cross that off my bucket list.

Park visitors yearning to ride through our city parks in equal style now have a new option in ParkWide Bike Rentals, which officially rolled out in our parks on October 11.

ParkWide is a new park amenity that allows visitors the opportunity to rent a bike (or surrey) at one city park and ride to others where they can easily and conveniently drop it off. By the end of the year, ParkWide will have rental stations at Justin Herman Plaza, Union Square, Marina Green and two locations in Golden Gate Park—behind the Bandshell and along Tea Garden Drive in the Music Concourse area.

This new partnership is a win all the way around. ParkWide not only makes it easier for residents and visitors to get out, bike and see our world-class park system, but our agreement with ParkWide Bike Rentals will bring in more than $1 million to support department operations over the next five years.

I want to thank all of the folks who’ve supported this effort and worked to make it possible, including Mayor Ed Lee; the Board of Supervisors, including District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar; the Recreation and Park Commission; the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, led by director Leah Shahum; and ParkWide Bike Rentals, including owners Jeanne and Luis Orellana, Darryll White and Jeff Sears

In particular, I’d like to acknowledge Rec and Park’s Partnerships and Resource Development team, which has been doing a tremendous job over the past two years of not only identifying opportunities that creatively support the Department in times of need but doing it thoughtfully and strategically so that we are providing the type of enhanced park experience people are looking for.

Of course, all of this falls in line with the city’s goal of making our communities and places like Golden Gate Park and the Academy of Sciences more bike-friendly and easier to visit for parents, families and residents.

One of the biggest proponents of our city’s biking initiatives has been Mayor Lee, who has a couple of exciting new bike-related projects on the horizon—a dedicated bike lane along JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park, and a citywide bike share program that will roll out next spring.

Get out and bike!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Honoring Some of Rec and Park's Best

I want to spend some time today thanking three individuals from the Rec and Park family who have really made a difference in our parks over the years, who exemplify the type of employee every city park department across the country would love to have. We’ve been lucky to have all three gardeners serve our city parks for a combined 83 years-- Joe Faulkner, Terry McDevitt and Carter Church.

Joe Faulkner retires after 38 years with the city, a career that began in 1973 - only one year before his father Charlie retired from the City in 1974. Together, Joe and his father represent over 76 years of continuous family history working for the City.

As a kid, Joe worked at Harding Park, picking up golf balls at the driving range for golf pro Joey Rey. Joe is an accomplished golfer in his own right, playing in 40 San Francisco City Golf Tournaments. He is a two-time Harding Park Men's Club champion, and Joe and his son Daniel are two-time Family Golf Tournament champions, held annually at the Golden Gate Park Golf Course.

In 1980 Joe received a Bachelor of Arts degree in recreation from San Francisco State University. He was a gardener at Lincoln Park for 11 years and has taken care of the Golden Gate Park Golf Course for the past 17 years, keeping it maintained at a high level and even enduring a much-publicized vandalism incident at the course in 2010.

Joe has also worked at Harding Park for the American Express Tournament in 2005 and for the Charles Schwab Cup in 2010, two flagship events that have helped make San Francisco a world-renowned golfing destination.

Joe is married to his beautiful wife Carol and together they have three children, Michael, Daniel and Kelly. Joe is looking forward to retirement, playing golf, staying involved in the golf community and traveling with his wife.

Terry McDevitt is also retiring and has worked for the department for more than 40 years, or as his friend and supervisor Robert Sheets says, since the dawn of time.

Terry first worked as a temp worker along Ocean Beach, cleaning bathrooms, but soon got permanent status as a gardener working in Golden Gate Park’s East End, where he was credited with several improvements to the area.

Terry has also worked at Stern Grove and has spent the last 17 years working at West Sunset Playground, where he has excelled as a groundskeeper, caring for the popular and heavily used soccer fields and ball diamonds. While he started with two other gardeners at West Sunset, staff attrition soon left him there on his own, however, the quality of the park never suffered. To this date, Terry’s diamonds are some of the most requested and least complained about fields in the system.

At one point in his career, Terry took voice lessons to become a DJ. Although he wasn't cut out for the job, he soon became articulate in the verbal arts. The nickname "Silver Tongue" still follows him to this day as he’s often found at public meetings participating in discussions on park issues. Terry also continues to be active in Local 261, where he is a shop steward.

As an employee, Terry is a supervisor’s dream, often taking care of issues before his supervisor even talks to him about them. According to Robert, a typical conversation between him and Terry goes like this:

Robert: “Hey, Terry. Just got a call. We have a line break at West...."

Terry: "Already dug it out and called the plumbers..."

Robert: “Okay...see you at lunch."

Carter Church has worked for the department for a little over five years. He first worked in the Mission under Adrian Field and then transferred to Section Two in Golden Gate Park, where he was responsible for the Shakespeare Garden and one-third of the Japanese Tea Garden.

While working for the department he personally pursued additional academic status on his own time, elevating his own skills and of those around him by forwarding on whatever he had just learned.

His supervisor, James McCormick recently said, "Every gardener is a painter of the landscape. Some people like chaos and color, others prefer sharp lines, symmetrical angles and clutter, while more desire order and method. Carter’s character and eye were of warmth, patience, and strategy; his personal style brought sensitivity and intelligence to his beats and to his crew. He made everyone want to come to work, because he was never just a coworker but a friend as well. We all miss and love you in Section Two."

Last month, Food & Wine Magazine, a national publication, named the Shakespeare Garden as one of the nation’s top picnic spots, an honor that is a direct result of Carter’s hard work and passion.

Although Joe, Terry and Carter won’t be part of the everyday dealings at Rec and Park anymore, they’ll always be part of our Rec and Park family and always have a special place in my heart.

Above photo from L to R: Recreation and Park Commission President Mark Buell, Omar Dudum, Adrian Field, Steve Castile, Joe Faulkner, James McCormick, Carter Church, Terry McDevitt, Robert Sheets, GM Phil Ginsburg and Ana Alvarez

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Remembering 9/11 Through Service

As we near the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 and one of the most tragic events in history, I can’t help but relive the day in my head and remember where I was and what I was doing that day.

My family and I were living temporarily in a rental on Downey Street in Cole Valley while some work was being done on our home. Our oldest daughter Grace was just 17 months old. My wife Emily and I got a call just after 7 a.m. from a family member who told us there had been a horrible plane crash in New York City (where much of Emily's family resides and where we still have many friends) and that we should turn on the TV. Horrifically and surreally, we watched a second plane crash into the Twin Towers and both towers collapse on live TV. Emily's first cousin Jane lost her husband (Christian Maltby) who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. He was a young father of three.

As the events unfolded that day and it became apparent just how horrific, tragic and scary the world had become, we really didn't know what to do. I was working as a deputy city attorney in the City Attorney's office but I knew I wasn't leaving my wife and young daughter alone that day. Em's classes at UCSF med school were cancelled and there was no day care for Grace that day. As we tried to cope with our own shock and grief and the likely loss of a family member, we also knew we wanted to keep things as innocent, safe and happy for our daughter.

How did we spend our day? At a park and playground, fittingly enough.

This Sunday, September 11, in remembrance of 9/11 and in celebration of the strength, courage and resilience of our nation, I invite you to come out to our parks and serve at one of three Recreation and Park Department tribute projects in partnership with HandsOn Bay Area, at Jefferson Square, Margaret Hayward Playground and Patricia's Green.

Volunteers will gather together at 9 a.m. at the Veterans War Memorial Building courtyard at Civic Center to honor the memories of the victims of 9/11 and then go forth to give tribute to the fallen by serving at various community projects around town. The Day of Service will begin at 9 a.m. with registration and a light breakfast, and at 9:30 a.m., a 20-minute commemoration program will begin. At 10 a.m., volunteers will disperse to their projects.

There is no charge to register but you must register to participate in the volunteer projects. Registered participants will receive a commemorative t-shirt.

Click here to register today.