Monday, March 18, 2013

When Size Doesn't Matter - Five Pint-Sized Parks Worth a Visit

We've all heard of Golden Gate Park and Alamo Square, but have you heard of Juri Commons or Bernal Heights Mini Park? With over 220+ parks and open spaces scattered throughout the city, it's easy for some of the smaller parks to be overshadowed by their larger and more famous neighbors. Some of these pint-sized parks are fun to visit, and can be combined with other nearby sights to make a trip worth your while. 

Jack Early Park (North Beach/Telegraph Hill)
View from Jack Early Park via @gwdexter on Flickr
Jack Early was a former neighborhood resident who passionately planted the steep hillside where this park is located today. After ascending 63 stairs, you arrive at a postage-stamp sized perch with a stellar view of the Bay. Get ready, this is one of the tiniest and most romantic viewpoints in the city. 

Bernal Heights Mini Park (Bernal Heights)
The Slides of Bernal Heights Mini Park
If you've been on an Urban Hiker SF tour, you surely remember the Seward Street Slides. If you liked those, there is second set of slides in the unofficial park known as Bernal Heights Mini Park. Over the years, these slides have had their ups and downs (pun intended). At the slides' opening in 1979, then Mayor Dianne Feinstein raced down the slides and defeated district supervisor, Lee Dolson. In the late 90s, the slides were almost shut down due to what were estimated to be prohibitively expensive repairs. Volunteer labor and a petition signed by neighbors saved the slides.

Juri Commons (Mission)
The inviting entrance to Juri Commons
Believe it or not, the Southern Pacific Railroad used to run right through the Mission District in the early 20th century. Some buildings and homes (like this one) still conform to the railroad line, and so does Juri Commons. Juri Commons is a well-maintained diagonal strip of land between Guerrero and San Jose and 25th and 25th Streets. It houses a playground and a few benches where you can relax.

Al's Park is quirky through and through.
Al’s Park (Upper Market)
While Al's Park isn't an official park (yet), it's a great reflection of the spirit of San Francisco. A thin strip of land in what one can only assume is someone's backyard, Al's Park is full of interesting plants, furniture, and quirky art pieces. I am not sure who Al is, but he is a San Franciscan through and through. 

Hawk Hill with Mt. Davidson in the back.

Hawk Hill Park (Forrest Hill)
Not to be confused with its similarly named neighbor to the north, Hawk Hill Park is nestled into the Forrest Hill neighborhood. From this sandy and grassy overlook, you can see Mount Davidson and take in sweeping views of the ocean. This park makes the list because most people don't know you can actually visit the park - they think it's just a hillside. The best point of entry is on San Rita Avenue.