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Lincoln Park playground re-opening soon

Watch for the fencing surrounding Lincoln Playground at 33rd Avenue and Clement to come down in early April. That’s what I’m being told by Meghan Tiernan, the Rec & Parks Dept. project manager for the Lincoln Playground renovation.

The playground has being completely redesigned and includes new equipment, safety surfacing and furnishings, plus new seatwalls and landscaping.

Like many modern playgrounds, Lincoln will now have two distinct sections – one for children age 2-5, the other designed with taller, more complex structures for kids age 5-12. The lawn also received a makeover, with all new sod and a portion of it reshaped to create a level playing area.

Meghan tells me that a more formal, ribbon-cutting ceremoney will be scheduled for later in April or early May. I’ll keep you posted on the celebration plans.

Sarah B.

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 1:09 pm | Posted under Kids, Recreation | 1 comment

A tour of Mountain Lake Park

Last weekend, I joined in on a walking tour of the Richmond District’s Mountain Lake Park given by Woody LaBounty of the Western Neighborhoods Project (one of the great perks of a WNP membership). In addition to his deep historical knowledge of the western part of San Francisco, Woody has a personal interest in the park. He grew up just a block away; Mt. Lake Park was his backyard.

Mt. Lake is one of those parks that many San Franciscans either don’t know about or have never set foot in. It’s tucked away off of Lake Street, running from 8th Avenue to Park Presidio. We started our tour from the backside of the park, entering in by the Presidio on 14th Avenue.

We stopped just inside the Presidio to learn about the Marine Hospital that was built there in 1875 and served sailors from around the world. It later became the Public Health Hospital which closed in 1981 and this summer, the Presidio Landmark apartments will open up there.

On the Marine Hospital ground was a cemetery for sailors that didn’t survive their illnesses or injuries. In the 1920s or 1930s, the cemetery was paved over by the Army for tennis courts and a parking lot. It’s estimated that 500 graves are still located there. Later in the tour, Woody held up a newspaper article from 1895 that described a coffin found floating in Mountain Lake, due to either a dense grave robber (the sailors buried there were indigent), or a medical student looking for extra credit.

As we made our way over to the park, we got a panoramic view of it across the Park Presidio/Highway 1 roadway. The “back entrance” into the park is a best kept secret of Richmond District residents, and there were plenty out enjoying the nice day. Dog owners particularly enjoy the car-free route.

The “mountain” in the park’s name comes from the hill that juts up behind the lake. It used to be more prominent but the installation of the MacArthur tunnel along Highway 1 reduced its stature. But in the 1800s when there was hardly any vegetation in the area, the hill would have been more reminiscent of a mountain.

The earliest known visit to Mountain Lake Park came from Juan Batista de Anza, a Spanish explorer who camped at the lake in 1776. There is a plaque in the park commemorating his visit; coincidentally our tour was on the 234th anniversary. Despite the abundance of fresh water in the lake, de Anza would eventually move on because of the lack of timber.

Mountain Lake Park was officially added to the city of San Francisco in 1874. In 1890, 20,000 trees were planted to spruce up the habitat. The park includes one of the few natural, fresh water lakes in San Francisco. According to a sign in the park, “Native people, Spanish expeditions, Mexican military, and the US Army all relied on the lake as an important source of fresh water.” You can even spot an old pump that was part of the irrigation system the US Army used to water the Presidio Golf Course.

Along our tour we heard stories of park legends like the rope swing where kids would fly out over the lake and back to shore, and the “old man shack” where men in suits and hats would gather to play cards under a shelter that is still in the park today. And on occasion, you’ll still see people utilizing the par course.

In the 1990s, one visitor to the park made big headlines. On July 29, 1996, a neighbor reported seeing a three foot alligator swimming in the lake. Sure enough, others spotted it and the hunt was on. The gator ignited a coverage war between the two local papers that summer, and the Chronicle even imported “Trapper Jim” from Florida to try and catch the elusive reptile. He didn’t succeed – the gator wouldn’t be caught until October.

Another person on the tour told the story of a horse that perished in the park in the late 1950s after getting stuck in the “blue mud” that lined the lakeshore. The poor fella had to be lifted out by crane after his demise.

If you haven’t visited Mountain Lake Park, add it to your list. It’s got a nice playground for kids, tennis courts, a large meadow perfect for frisbee tosses and picnics, plus a quaint lakeshore where you can enjoy the view and feed some ducks and seagulls.

Special thanks to Woody and the Western Neighborhoods Project for a great tour. Check out the video below for highlights of Mountain Lake Park – yet another gem of the Richmond District.

Sarah B.

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 6:30 am | Posted under Recreation, Video | 3 comments

A tribute to “Gumby” at the Balboa, April 1

This Thursday night, celebrate the life and creations of Gumby’s creator, animator Art Clokey, who passed away in January.

The event will feature Tim Hittle’s Emmy award winning feature, Gumby Dharma. Step into the life and work of Clokey, creator of Gumby, grandfather of stop-motion animation, and explore through this documentary why a man would spend his 85 years on earth playing with lumps of colored clay.

Clokey’s journey takes us from the orphanage to inspiring adopted father, from the Seminary to the Hollywood movie business, and from traditional Episcopalian church values to Buddhism and Indian guru Sai Baba. It is a fascinating life and career in its own right but also in how it gently influenced Clokey’s characters and story lines for over 40 years.

They will also show some shorts and feature live music from J. Kleinberg, who composed a film score for Gumby Dharma. The fun starts at 7pm, advance tickets available here.

Sarah B.

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 11:31 pm | Posted under Movies | 1 comment

Don’t let the sun go down on me

An Ocean Beach sunset. By ob-kc.com via stokereport.

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 6:33 pm | Posted under Photos | Comments Off on Don’t let the sun go down on me

Neighborhood meeting

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 9:10 am | Posted under Photos | Comments Off on Neighborhood meeting

Feast your eyes on these shiny scooters

On a walk down 3rd Avenue this afternoon, I came across a shiny line of electric scooters. I wondered “Is this some kind of scooter rental business I don’t know about?”

Turns out they are part of a collection of over 70 electric scooters that Richmond District resident Ed MacNeil has amassed. Some are foreign, including a baby blue scooter from Germany that can get 45 miles on a single charge. Others are zippy, with a top speed of about 22 miles per hour. Ed determined that by looking at me and estimating my weight – I didn’t ask him for the figure he used to calculate. 😉

Ed is trying to sell off most of his collection; prices range from $199 to $599. They’re actually great for the Richmond since most of the streets are pretty flat. So if you’re looking for a zippy ride, give Ed a call at 845-9618. And if I hear of a scooter sidewalk sale, I’ll let you know.

Sarah B.

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 4:19 pm | Posted under Shopping | Comments Off on Feast your eyes on these shiny scooters

Meet Odie, the Richmond’s elder feline statesman

Back before Chelsea passed away, I always used to pop into Cal’s Pet Supply on California and 22nd Avenue when I was at Angelina’s for a sandwich. Unlike the big chain pet stores, Cal’s is always full of unique treats and toys. So I would usually come home with something new for Chelsea’s toy basket.

While the merchandise changes, one things at Cal’s does not and that’s Odie, its elder statesman. Odie is 22 years old and David H., who helps out occasionally at Cal’s, gave me the scoop on Odie’s illustrious history:

Roy Schmall, the owner of Cal’s, found Odie in front of the store 22 years ago and actually has documentation of his age. Mr. Odie spends most of his time sleeping at his window perch when not roaming the store. Dogs, cats, chinchillas, rabbits, even pet rats that come into the store don’t seem to disturb the feline elder statesman. He has kept his sweet disposition and loves to have people (as well as animals) stop by to say hello.

So the next time you’re in the area, pop by Cal’s to say hi to Odie. While he may be 22, he’ll still gives out a rumbling, hearty purr.

Sarah B.

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 11:01 am | Posted under Business, Pets | 3 comments

Working it out at Muriel Leff Park

Last weekend, about 15 volunteers gathered at Muriel Leff Mini-Park on 7th Avenue for a workday. Many of the volunteers were Lincoln High School students.

Neighborhood Parks Council Coordinator Matt Silva sent over video and photos from the event. I absolutely love the testimonial from one of the volunteers at the 1:00 mark (“volunteering is like dirt therapy”).

To keep up with the park and future events, visit the Muriel Leff group website for updates. Thanks to all who volunteered their time! Muriel Leff is smiling. :)

Sarah B.

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 11:14 am | Posted under Community, Volunteer | Comments Off on Working it out at Muriel Leff Park