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Golden Gate Park's 150th Birthday Party Dampened But Not Eclipsed By COVID-19

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) - Saturday was to be the day for a grand celebration in Golden Gate Park but It was not to be. Instead, San Francisco has something else -- a new appreciation for the park.

"Today is supposed to be sunny, and they're supposed to be 150,000 of us, arm in arm, singing and dancing, and riding the big observation wheel," says Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of San Francisco Rec & Parks. "Instead, you and I are both kind of alone, social distancing, and in the rain. But, you know, in a sense, maybe it's a little poetic."

Under a steady rain and the unseeable viral cloud that has changed all of our lives, Golden Gate Park's 150th birthday was an understated one, at least compared to what had been planned for this day.

The park actually kicked off a full year of celebration back in January, also on a day that brought a driving rain, and nothing since has gone according to plan. This has been a remarkable year. And this park has seen more than a few of them.

"Golden Gate Park is a big part of our city's collective memory, its collected history," Ginsburg explains. "It has certainly been here for us and all the joyous times, but it has also been here for us in crisis, right? This is not its only pandemic. There have been a few others. It's been here for two earthquakes, an AIDS crisis, it's been here in the sun, it's been here in the fog, and yes it's been here in the rain."

Ginsburg sees the park as a lifeline during this crisis, and even in Saturday's rain people came for it.

It is hard to know what John McClaren would have wanted for his park's 150th birthday, but it's also hard to imagine circumstances that could make us more grateful for his work.

"I know we are supposed to be inside as much as possible, and we're supposed to be social distancing, which I hope we're all doing in the park," Ginsburg says. "But wellness means a lot of things. It's both mental wellness and physical well-being. And the time outside, the time in nature, the time in this beloved 1017-acre park has never been more important."

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