When it opens this spring, a stroll around Mariposa Park will reveal a gorgeous new member of the Mission Bay Parks System – a linked walkable green space circuit – and a peek into Mission Bay’s history. The park, located in the shadow of Interstate-280 at Mariposa and Fourth streets, is situated at the foot of what was once a swampland that teemed with life, for thousands of years home to shellfish, migrating birds, insects and shoals of small fish.
Massive growth of a burgeoning San Francisco in the late-1800s, coupled with suspect deals made between City officials and the “Big Four,” – Leland Stanford, Collis Potter Huntington, Mark Hopkins and Charles Crocker’s – influential businessmen and railroad tycoons who built the Central Pacific Railroad, led to a gradual filling-in of the marsh from the 1860s until 1910, utilizing 20 to 100 foot sand dunes that used to occupy what’s now known as South-of-Market for filler. Following the 1906 Earthquake, debris from the fallen city was used to complete the patchwork landfill. The railroad and shipping industries occupied the area until well into the 20th century.
In the late-1990s a plan was created by the Mission Bay Development Group (MBDG), in conjunction with the City and County of San Francisco’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure and Planning Department, to convert what’d become a 300-acre brownfield railyard into a University of California, San Francisco campus and new residences. What was once one of San Francisco’s most underutilized waterfront properties has emerged as the City’s largest urban development since the creation of Golden Gate Park in the late-1800s. Under MBDG’s overall management, thousands of homes – including oriented towards low-income families – have been created, as have jobs, retail and green spaces.
Mariposa Park features an overhead trellis meant to pay homage to the many railway turnarounds that dotted the area. Gabion benches are filled with rubble from warehouses that were demolished to make way for new developments, such as UCSF’s Benioff Children’s Hospital, which opened last year across the street. The park boasts a one-seventh mile walking path shaped like a butterfly’s wing, the park’s namesake, a detail only visible aerially or from the hospital’s upper floors. It’s landscaped with plants known to attract local butterflies in an effort to return a modicum of biodiversity to Mission Bay.
At more than two acres, Mariposa Park will be the largest completed space within the Mission Bay Parks System until the construction of the 5.5 acre Bayfront Park, located between Terry Francois Boulevard and the Bay. That park is scheduled to be completed in 2018, in advance of the recently christened Chase Center, which supporters hope will open in time for the Golden State Warrior’s 2019/20 season.
For information on upcoming events, including free concerts and children’s activities, visit www.missionbayparks.com.