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Presidio Kids: Celebrating 10 Years of Camping in the Presidio

Friday, Dec 02, 2016 Category Education; Kids and Family; Nature and Science

After World War II, the Army created a campground near the Presidio's highest point to welcome Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops. No doubt an overnight adventure in the "wild" created many young nature lovers.

In 2006, park managers launched an effort to extend the tradition of youth camping in the Presidio to a new generation of kids, especially those who might never have experienced a national park before. Thus, the Camping at the Presidio (CAP) program was born at Rob Hill Campground. As CAP celebrates its 10th anniversary, it has invited more than 40,000 urban children, youth, and adults to enjoy a night under the stars.

An Introduction to National Parks

How does CAP work? Through a partnership between the Presidio Trust, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, National Park Service, and Bay Area Wilderness Training, the CAP program trains adults from community organizations and schools to bring the youth under their care into the park for a camping experience. For a nominal fee, these groups get a host of camping equipment – basically everything but the food for the trip. All kids need to bring is their own toothbrush (and a teddy bear, if needed).

The CAP Experience

Groups typically arrive in the morning and work with their leaders, following instructions on their tent set-up before they take a break for a group lunch. Then they enjoy a staff-led activity, such as a hike along the Batteries to Bluffs Trail, one of the wildest and most scenic parts of the Presidio.

Like with most faraway camping, a CAP trip offers a profound experience within the natural world. Kids work together to make a meal and they get to sleep in the great outdoors, hear the crashing waves of the nearby Pacific Ocean, indulge in a cozy campfire, and simply relish being outside for 24 to 48 hours.

Of the program, one teacher wrote, "I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to take advantage of this awesome experience for my students." When asked about the most memorable parts of their camping experience, an adult leader wrote, "All the kids wanting to help make dinner. Watching the incredible sunset. The kids' enthusiasm when the full moon popped up above the horizon. Everyone screaming and running to see a banana slug. Sitting around the campfire telling stories. Hanging out together in the tents and falling asleep as we told each other stories. Just hanging out and having quality time together. The whole experience was truly magical."

"I see the CAP programming continuing to increase access and equity in our park," says Maggie McGarry, CAP program manager. "For many of our participants, camping at Rob Hill is their first experience in the national parks, and we're looking forward to exploring new ways for them to strengthen their relationship with the parks."

Learn more about the CAP program and Rob Hill Campground >>