Coming soon: A deck park near you

Parks are a welcome green oasis for anyone anywhere, but they’re possibly most appreciated in concrete jungles where space and nature are at a premium.

New parks are popping up across the country on top of highways. They’re called deck parks, highway cap parks or land bridges — and they’re a huge hit.

You’ll find deck parks in Boston, Dallas, New York City and San Francisco. Parks are underway in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Denver. Other cities, such as Atlanta and the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, are considering it. (See below.)

Parks built over highways aren’t brand new. Seattle has had one over Interstate 5 since 1976 and Phoenix over I-100 since 1990. But such parks have become increasingly popular as a way to find space in teeming cities, add greenery to downtowns, encourage more outdoor activity, rejuvenate blighted areas and rejoin urban neighborhoods split by road construction decades earlier.

I’m all for more parks. Having grown up near a city park, I spent a lot of time there — as a child and as a teenager. I recently visited the new deck park in San Francisco. I’ve also been to the deck parks in Boston, Chicago and Dallas.

Parks can make a difference. Trees and plants take carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. Studies shows that plants can help humans fight depression. A recent U.S. Department of Transportation case study found that most visitors (91 percent) to Dallas’ new deck park said it “significantly improved” their quality of life. That park also spurred economic, environmental and other benefits, including new tax revenue, a big jump in adjacent commercial rents and increased streetcar ridership in Dallas.

Here’s your guide to finding a deck park — or plans for one — near you:

5 new(ish) deck parks

San Francisco: Salesforce Park in the South of Market area is one of the latest deck parks. It opened in August 2018 as part of larger project, including a new transit center and office tower for software company Salesforce. Not long after, the 5.4-acre rooftop park closed when two cracked steel beams were found. It re-opened last summer. The narrow park includes a walking loop, a small amphitheater, a playground and a fountain. The $2.2 billion park is public, but Salesforce bought sponsorship, giving it naming rights for 25 years. It’s open through April 30 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

San Francisco
Salesforce Park in San Francisco opened in 2018. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Dallas: I was living here in 2012, when the city opened the 5-acre, $110 million Klyde Warren Park above a freeway that separates two neighborhoods: the downtown Dallas Arts District and Uptown. People flock to the park, which offers many activities (ping-pong to yoga), a water feature, a restaurant, a dog park and free wi-fi. The foundation that runs the park plans to add 1.2 acres for a pavilion and more parking. It’s open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (See the featured photo I took of the park at top and below.)

Dallas plans to build another deck park near the Dallas Zoo as part of a project to widen I-35E. The 5-plus-acre Southern Gateway Deck Park will reconnect and revitalize parts of the Oak Cliff neighborhood south of downtown. Park construction could begin by 2022.

Dallas park
Klyde Warren Park in Dallas offers plenty for kids and adults to do. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

New York City: The High Line park built on a 1.45-mile, elevated rail line on the West Side opened in 2009. The High Line app lets visitors digitally explore the park’s features, such as overlooks, art, performances, food venues and programs like summer dancing. The narrow, serpentine park, which runs from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street, is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through March 31 (it closes later in spring, summer and fall).

New York City

The High Line deck park in New York City meanders through different neighborhoods. (Photo by Alex Simpson on Unsplash)

Boston: The Rose Kennedy Greenway opened in 2008 at a cost $40 million. The 1.5-mile park sits above the city’s Central Artery, which was moved underground during what’s called the “Big Dig.” The long and narrow park offers food trucks, planted paths, events (such as movies, music and fitness classes), a carousel, fountains, art and free wi-fi. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Chicago: While Millennium Park isn’t elevated and doesn’t cover a highway, it is on a deck built over railroad tracks. Since opening in 2004, the park has become a huge tourist attraction and a focal point of the city. Some highlights include: a 2.5-acre garden; Cloud Gate, a sculpture that resembles a giant shiny, stainless-steel bean; a 925-foot-long footbridge; two performance venues; Crown Fountain, which consists of a reflecting pool bookended by two 50-foot glass towers on which video images of residents are projected.

Residents and visitors alike love the Cloud Gate sculpture, aka “The Bean,” in Chicago’s Millennium Park. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

5 possible parks on the horizon

Pittsburgh: The city began working on the I-579 Cap Park in June 2019 to cover part of I-579 and reconnect downtown with its historically black neighborhood called the Hill District. The 3-acre park will include a garden, a watercourse, art and an amphitheater.  Construction is expected to be completed in late 2021.

Denver: The city’s $1.3 billion highway project will tear down an elevated portion of I-70 through a low-income neighborhood in the northeast, bury the new road and build a 5-acre deck park on top. The Central 70 project may be completed around 2022.

Philadelphia: The city is going big, with plans for a 12-acre, $220-million park over I-95. The Park at Penn’s Landing withe views of the Delaware River. The park, which is scheduled to open in 2024, will include performance space, food and drink venues, a play area, a water feature and an ice-skating rink (in winter).

Atlanta: Three groups propose deck parks over parts of busy downtown highways. The Central Atlanta Progress business coalition and Chik-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy tout separate plans for a park covering the I-75 and I-85 Downtown Connector. The Buckhead Community Improvement District proposes a park over Georgia State Route 400.

St. Paul, Minn.: A nonprofit called ReConnect Rondo advocates building a “land bridge” over part of I-94. It would reconnect the city’s Rondo neighborhood, which was divided by the highway’s construction, and provide land for a park and other development.

The Point Bonita Lighthouse is worth the trek and the wait

California Journal

Being at the Point Bonita Lighthouse just north of San Francisco is like being at the end of the earth.

In a way, you are. It’s the western edge of the United States.

Point Bonita Lighthouse tunnel
Visitors must walk through this hand-hewn tunnel to reach the Point Bonita Lighthouse. (Sheryl Jean)

The 1885 lighthouse is still used today, so it’s open for only three hours a day three days a week: from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays. Visiting it is like being let in on a secret.

The U.S. Coast Guard maintains the lighthouse, which is on on the Marin Headlands and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The National Park Service provides access to visitors.

After walking through a tunnel, and a narrow cliff-top path, visitors walk over this suspension bridge to reach the lighthouse. (Sheryl Jean)

Be prepared to walk a half mile to the site, through a rough rock tunnel (open only during visiting hours) and over a suspension bridge to the lighthouse, which sits on a small patch of land jutting into the Pacific Ocean. My National Park guide said it took 3.5 months to dig the tunnel by hand.

You’ll be rewarded with spectacular coastal views and seeing nature at its wildest and windiest best.

View from Point Bonita
This is the view looking North from the lighthouse. (Sheryl Jean)

How it works

The 1885 lighthouse was the third one built on the West Coast to help lead ships through dangerous water and thick fog. The original lighthouse was 300 feet above sea level, but fog often obscured the light. It moved to Point Bonita in 1877.

The Point Bonita Lighthouse can shine its beam 18 miles across the ocean in clear conditions using a Fresnel lens, which is based on ground glass prisms arranged in rings around a light source.

In dense fog, sound is used. First, there was a cannon, then a fog bell and a steam siren. Today, an electric fog horn emits two blasts every 30 seconds.

To reach the Point Bonita, visitors must to drive up and down a narrow, steep, twisting road through the Marin Headlands. Parking is limited. A free Marin Headlands Shuttle operates on weekends through September along Bunker Road, Field Road and Fort Baker, stopping at the lighthouse.

Point Bonita
Point Bonita (Google Maps)

Finnair already plans to expand its new San Francisco service

Finnair just started seasonal service from San Francisco to Helsinki two months ago, but it’s already planning to extend it’s operating season by a month next year.

The Finnish airline said today that its inaugural Bay Area service has been so well received that it will extend the operating season for its weekly flights by a month in 2018– from May 3 to Sept. 27.

It’s part of Finnair’s expansion plans for 2018. It already carries more than 10 million passengers a year between Asia, Europe and North America. By next summer, it will increase its total capacity by 14 percent from this summer season, Chief Commercial Officer Juha Järvinen said in a statement.

In addition to San Francisco, Finnair’s Chicago service will become daily with the addition of two weekly flights starting in April 2018 through October.

Outside of the United States, Finnair plans to will add flights to more than 20 European and Asian cities next winter and summer. And today, the airline introduced a year-round route to Nanjing, China.

What do World War I, the Liberty Bell and San Francisco have in common?

As we begin the centennial observance of United States involvement in World War I, the the iconic Liberty Bell comes to mind.

Following a recent visit to one of my favorite San Francisco spots — the Palace of Fine Arts — it was brought to my attention what role that site played in events leading up to the fateful date of April 6, 1915.

Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell (Pixabay/Creative Commons)

The Liberty Bell began its rise as a national symbol of independence in a cross-country train tour — from Philadelphia to San Francisco — in the summer of 1915 as President Woodrow Wilson and other leaders “felt the need to whip the nation into a patriotic frenzy to prepare for the war,” journalist Stephen Fried wrote in “How the Liberty Bell Won the Great War” in the April edition of Smithsonian magazine. (Note: The article is titled “Saved by the Bell” in the print edition.)

Along the way, Fried noted, the bell stopped at 275 cities and towns, drawing huge crowds.

Last year, San Francisco celebrated the centennial of when the Liberty Bell landed in the city on that trip: July 16, 1915. The next day the bell was paraded through the city’s streets to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition — for Liberty Day at the Fair.

Fun fact: A petition signed by 500,000 California children helped sway Philadelphia officials who were hesitant to lend the bell, according to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The Liberty Bell became the star of the exposition, which attracted 19 million visitors.

The trip to San Francisco and back was the last time the Liberty Bell left Philadelphia.

The California Historical Society has several digital images on its website regarding the Liberty Bell’s time in San Francisco. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania compiled 10 digital images of the Liberty Bell’s trip from Philadelphia to San Francisco in 1915.

Today, remnants of the San Francisco fair include the Presidio’s Crissy Field, the Marina Green and the Palace of Fine Arts, which was rebuilt as a permanent structure in the 1960s. (See my photo of the Palace of Fine Arts at top).

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I on April 6, 1915.  The National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday hosted a centennial observance below its 217-foot Liberty Memorial Tower and before thousands of attendees, including the Missouri governor, descendants of U.S. WWI veterans and foreign leaders, according to the Associated Press.

You can watch a video of the ceremony from the United States World War I Centennial Commission‘s website.

Globally, the WWI centennial observation began in 2014, in commemoration of the war’s outbreak in 1914, and continues through 2018.