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Presidio's Greatest Lists: Five National Park Icons

Thursday, Aug 04, 2016 Category History

Iconic American author Wallace Stegner once wrote, "National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst." On August 25, 2016, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the national park system. To mark the occasion, meet five great national parks icons with integral ties to the Presidio.

Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service

Ansel Adams

Did you know environmentalist and nature photographer Ansel Adams first cultivated his love for wilderness here in the Presidio? Born February 20, 1902, in San Francisco's Western Addition, Adams moved to the southern edge of the Presidio in 1907. One of his favorite haunts as a boy was the Presidio's very own Lobos Creek. He also loved exploring the nearby coastline, from Baker Beach to the rocky cliffs of Lands End. He took his first trip to Yosemite National Park in 1916 – 100 years ago! This is when he first began taking photos of the park. Today, his black and white photos of Yosemite are iconic, revealing what California once looked like. As a conservationist, he used his images to promote Sierra Club goals, inviting visitors near and far to love, appreciate, and care for our natural environment.

Get inspired at Ansel Adams' old stomping grounds at the Presidio's Lobos Creek >>


Charles Young

Photo credit: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks​

In 1866, Congress established four all-black regiments: the 9th and 10th Cavalry, and the 24th and 25th Infantry. Located all over the country, they fought campaigns against native tribes, pursued bandits, improved roads, scouted and mapped frontier lands, and were some of the first "guardians of our national parks." These soldiers were called "Buffalo Soldiers." According to legend, this name came from Native Americans who revered the buffalo and used this name as a sign of respect toward these soldiers.

In 2016, we not only celebrate the 100th anniversary of the national parks, but also the 150th anniversary of the Buffalo Soldiers, who have ties to both the Presidio and our national parks. Starting in 1899, all four Buffalo Soldier regiments passed through the Presidio. The highest ranking Buffalo Soldier to be stationed here was Colonel Charles Young, who arrived in 1901 and overcame hardships, racism, and adversity to become a diplomat and civil rights leader.

Born in 1863 to enslaved parents, in the summer of 1903 he was appointed acting superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant national parks, becoming the first African American superintendent of a national park. He served as captain of the Buffalo Soldiers 9th Calvary, leading his troops from the Presidio to Sequoia National Park, where they spent the summer developing trails, managing road construction, and protecting the park from grazing and poachers. In his final report on Sequoia National Park to the Secretary of the Interior, he advocated for acquiring privately held lands, preserving forests, and helping to secure the park for future generations.

Learn more about Buffalo Soldiers and visit the Buffalo Soldiers Photographic Exhibit at Fort Point >>


Amy Meyer

Photo credit: Bill Chin, San Francisco Chronicle

Amy Meyer is sometimes regarded as the "mother of the Golden Gate National Parks." In January 1971, she helped form a coalition of park advocates, People for a Golden Gate National Recreation Area. She became co-chair of the group, alongside former Sierra Club President Ed Wayburn (see below). Together they promoted the establishment of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), which took place on October 27, 1972. In 1993, when the Army was preparing to leave the Presidio, Amy helped organize People for the Presidio, a community group advocating to preserve and protect the Presidio and save it as part of the GGNRA. In 2006, Amy co-authored Guardians for the Golden Gate: How America Got a Great National Park, and she continues to advocate on behalf of our parklands.

For a great look at the GGNRA, head over to Golden Gate Overlook >>


Dr. Ed and Peggy Wayburn

Photo credit: Nancy Kittle

President Bill Clinton once said that San Francisco environmentalist Ed Wayburn "saved more of our wilderness than any other person alive," and honored him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our country's highest civilian honor. Ed was chairman of the Sierra Club, co-chair of the People for a Golden Gate National Recreation Area and, together with his wife Peggy, worked tirelessly to help preserve the mountains, meadows, and rivers of California and Alaska. He's credited with protecting and saving more than 100 million acres of the American landscape for future generations to enjoy. Dr. Wayburn lived to be 103 years old. To commemorate his 100th birthday in 2006, a redwood grove in the Presidio was dedicated to him and his late wife.

To honor the Wayburns' legacy, visit Wayburn Redwood Grove in the Presidio >>

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi

Photo credit: Manali Sibthorpe for © Moanalani Jeffrey Photography​

Since her first days in office,  Democratic Leader and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has been committed to protecting the Presidio. In 1993, she authored the Presidio Trust Act, bipartisan legislation (passed in 1996) that saved the Presidio as a "partnership park," with the Presidio Trust, National Park Service, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and community members working together to share the Presidio as a public place. In 2014, Leader Pelosi attended the opening of the Presidio Officers' Club (above), a space reborn as a public cultural destination that provides free access to events, educational programs, and exhibitions about the park.​​

Learn more about the Presidio Officers' Club >>