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What's Going on at the Presidio?


    Trying to keep up with everything in the national park system is a job no one person can do. I don't even try.
    Fortunately, there are other eyes across this nation keeping track of what's going on in their own backyards, and in the case of the Presidio of San Francisco, the San Francisco Bay Guardian is doing an exemplary job of analyzing how this park unit is being managed.
    Late last month the newspaper's Amanda Witherell took a close look at the Presidio's books, and asked some tough questions of Dana Polk, the senior adviser for government and media relations for the trust that oversees the Presidio, which really is operated more as a commercial business than a unit of the national park system.
    Among the questions was why the trust is sitting on $105 million in the bank, rather than spending some of that money on needy projects at the Presidio? Read Amanda's story and learn more about this mysterious situation.
    And then check out the Guardian's editorial demanding that more sunlight shine on the trust's books.


The Presidio is sitting on that money because it has to become self sufficient, considering it would cost more than the entire National Park Service budget to run the place. How does everyone not get this? It's called a compromise- without commercial business in the Presidio, then it wouldn't be a national park and would be sold off to the nearest bidder. I work for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and live in the Presidio, and of course it's not as pristine as some of our national parks, but how many other national parks are surrounded by a major metropolitan city on some of the most prime real estate in the U.S.? Look at the glass as half-full people- and be thankful to those who worked so hard to get the Presidio to become part of our national parks in the first place.

Couldn't it be argued that the Presidio has already been sold off to the nearest bidder? Certainly it now resembles less a national park than it does a business park. Having the Presidio managed as a for-profit unit of the NPS severely weakens the notion that parks are managed first for conservation, then for recreation. The self-sufficient management objective of the Presidio is a direct threat to the 389 other park units around the country. Instead of describing this as glass half-full, I'd describe this as glass shattered on the ground broken beyond repair.

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