It was a while since I shared with you some of my discoveries in our great city of San Francisco. I heard about John McLaren Park from a friend. She recently got a puppy from a shelter and takes him there for walks, which is close to where she lives. In spite of the fact that it is the second largest park (or third, if counting Presidio Park) in San Francisco and is located only 2.5 miles from our house, which is closer than Golden Gate Park, and which was developed by the John McLaren, we never visited the park which carries his name.
Online I learned some very interesting history about the park, and why it is less known and not as popular as other parks in San Francisco – One reason perhaps is its location. The park is surrounded by the Excelsior, Crocker-Amazon, Visitacion Valley and Portola. These are mostly blue collar neighborhoods.
When I drove through it, we ended up in the Projects, and I was not surprised to find out that McLaren Park had a checkered reputation as a dumping ground for bodies and generally, it was a dangerous place in the 1980’s and 1990’s, with numerous crimes threatening visitors safety. I suspect that conditions in the park improved, perhaps because of the discouragement of visitors, the park boosts the largest grasslands left in San Francisco. This is not the only thing that makes this place unique. Even in San Francisco, a city considered hilly, McLaren Park stands out with some of the hilliest terrain in the city, which naturally lends to incredible views of the entire city.
Driving through it in every direction in the early afternoon, I was thinking that I should return before sunrise and at sunset to photograph the beautiful vistas.
Every park has a story and the people who created them. Though Dr. John Hays McLaren was not directly involved with the park, which carries his name, his contribution for our city is immeasurable.
He emigrated from Scotland, where he became a horticulturist to the United States in 1870,. He used his skills and tenacity and for 53years served as Superintendent of Golden Gate Park. Together with his friend John Muir, he dedicated his life to rigorous advocacy and development of one of the largest public parks in the world. One of John McLaren’s stipulations before his Superintendent job in 1887 was, there would be no “Keep off the Grass” signs. He built two windmills (which are familiar to anyone who has visited the park) to pump water into the park. He is also credited with planting two million trees during his lifetime. He did not only contribute to the park designs in San Francisco.
One of them is Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon, which we enjoy every time we travel there for the Oregon – Shakespeare Festival – John McLaren died at the age of 96 in 1943. During his life, he was honored and many places in San Francisco city carry his name. However, in spite of his great contribution, I suspect not many people know who he was. It is about time we visit his small statue in Golden Gate Park to express our gratitude.
P.S – When we visited John McLaren Park we stumbled into a small man made body of water, which turned out to be a popular place for dogs, like Labradors who like to swim. Though Max is a Labradoodle, he only came close enough to the water to drink it. These four images only tell a small story, the rest is up to you to discover.
I just received first printed copies of my book. Here is one of the first reviews.
“I enjoyed every story and every photo. The first forty-two days of Max’s puppyhood with Manny Kagan and his wife, told in short essays opposite real life photos of dogs with dogs lovers, gives 42 Encounters with Dog Lovers the authentic expression of the love of dogs. Manny Kagan’s 42 Encounters with Lovers is uplifting, touching, and fun to read. I give it the highest rating of five stars”
The book is going to be available for sale in a month.
Please pre-order through www.encounterspublishing.com.
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