Community Stewardship

Historical Essay

by Pete Holloran


Presidio Museum

Photo: Carla Lazer

Volunteer participation and community stewardship are hallmarks of the Presidio Park Stewardship Program. In just over six years, the program has involved thousands of school-age youth and community volunteers in the stewardship of Presidio natural areas. These energetic workers have helped restore habitat for rare or endangered plant species by removing invasive non-native species and planting native plants. Working closely with park staff, they have also mapped invasive species using GPS and GIS technology, conducted baseline inventories and annual rare plant censuses, and written and illustrated a new educational curriculum as well as interpretive pamphlets, flyers, and signs. Americorps and SF Conservation Corps crews provide large-scale support for restoration projects including invasive tree removal, installation of protective fencing, and construction of a native plant nursery.

All told, more than fifty thousand volunteer hours were logged during the fiscal year of 1994-1995 and have increased steadily ever since.

The vision of community stewardship that animates the Presidio program has been shaped by volunteers as much as park staff, but the program would not exist without avid encouragement from all levels of park management. From raptor research and wildlife monitoring to trail maintenance and museum curating, volunteers participate in nearly every aspect of park resource management. In 1998, more than 200,000 hours of volunteer time were donated to the park's natural resource management efforts.

As practiced by GGNRA, community stewardship centers on volunteer participation. Community-based restoration can be a powerful method for ensuring success of particular restoration projects and building a dedicated constituency for wise stewardship. Longterm stewardship of natural areas (particularly those requiring restoration) depends on citizen participation in all phases of its management--planning, inventory, research, implementation, and maintenance. Its long-term success will depend on its ability to address issues of social justice as well. We can hardly talk of restored natural communities without confronting the poverty and ill health that afflict surrounding human communities.

--Pete Holloran

[adapted from Pete Holloran, "The Greening of the Golden Gate: Community-based Restoration at the Presidio of San Francisco," Restoration & Management Notes 14, no. 2 (1996)]

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