The recent 10th anniversary celebration of the San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) and San Francisco Parks Alliance (SFPA) Street Parks Program reminds us that the Hidden Garden Steps community is continuing to become seamlessly interwoven with other communities of volunteers.
A brief video prepared for the Alliance by students from San Francisco State University places the Steps project within the larger context of volunteers collaborating with others to incrementally improve the neighborhoods in which we live. Onsite conversations at the celebration, which was held in San Francisco’s Progress Park (another highly successful Street Parks project), gave Steps and other Street Parks Program stewards a chance to see how they can work more closely together to support even more street parks in San Francisco. And stewards currently engaged in trying to complete projects including the Athens Avalon Greenspace clearly realized from Steps and other colleagues that they are not alone in the ever-growing family of volunteers nurtured and supported through DPW and the SF Parks Alliance.
The interactions between Hidden Garden Steps volunteers and others around San Francisco consistently provide rewards far beyond the effort required to initiate and maintain those interactions. Through the donations of plants we receive from other volunteer-maintained gardens for the Hidden Garden Steps gardens, we are literally planting reminders that those succulents and native California plants connect us to a network of public and private gardens lovingly tended by Street Parks Program colleagues like John Priola and Paul Matalucci. Through the conversations that take place on an almost daily basis between Steps neighbors and visitors from many different parts of the world, friendships clearly blossom. And through the efforts of the ever-growing group of people who take the times to sweep the Steps, remove the small amounts of trash that sometimes end up on the Steps, and tend the gardens, people who might otherwise feel as if the Steps belong to someone else are drawn into conversations that lead to their own participation in preserving and adding to the beauty of the site on 16th, between Kirkham and Lawton streets, in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District.
What clearly is at the heart of successful Street Parks Program projects are the people and connections they inspire. Volunteers like Liz McLoughlin are working to document the individual stories behind the more than 600 tiles supported by donors to the Hidden Garden Steps project. Other volunteers capture and share photographs via Facebook and Twitter to document some of the interactions that add to the sense of community that continues to grow on the Steps. And neighbors who might otherwise never meet are increasingly stopping to chat with each other onsite.
If you haven’t yet joined the Steps community, please don’t hesitate to come onsite to see what you’ve been missing.
N.B.: Numerous articles documenting the Hidden Garden Steps project remain available on the Building Creative Bridges blog. Steps updates can be found on this Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps blog. Stories provided by donors to the Hidden Garden Steps project are currently being added to the project website by Steps volunteer Liz McLoughlin, and a step-by-step virtual tour created by McLoughlin and by project volunteer Gilbert Johnson is also under development.
Post-installation work on the Hidden Garden Steps site (16th Avenue, between Kirkham and Lawton streets in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District) continued in August as a formal plaque identifying the site was installed.
The plaque reminds visitors that the project was completed through magnificent volunteer-driven, community-based collaborations between members of the Hidden Garden Steps organizing committee and the San Francisco Parks Alliance (formerly the San Francisco Parks Trust) and San Francisco Department of Public Works Street Parks Program.
Also included on the plaque are acknowledgments of the important role played by project artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher, whose 148-step ceramic-tiled mosaic has transformed a drab staircase into a community gem that is increasingly attracting visitors from the neighborhood and far beyond.
Supporters noted on the plaque include Country Floors, which provided the beautiful tread tiles at a discounted rate; KZ Tile Company, Inc., which installed the artists’ mosaic and the tread tiles at a reduced rate; the San Francisco Community Challenge Grant program, which provided a $32,500 grant to support the overall project; the San Francisco Department of Public Works, which completed extensive repairs on the concrete steps that were originally installed in 1926, and which also built and installed the massive erosion-control woodwork that provides the foundations for the volunteer-maintained gardens still being added on either side of the Steps; Schluter Systems LP, which provided the DITRA material that is underneath the mosaic and tread tiles; and the more than 600 individuals and businesses contributing cash to support the project.
The plaque, prepared by EGO Enterprises here in San Francisco, is highly visible at the foot of the Steps (the intersection of 16th Avenue and Kirkham Street) directly above the bench that was provided by the Public Bench Project and painted by art students from Woodside International School.
For more information about the Hidden Garden Steps and the Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps, please visit the project website at http://hiddengardensteps.org and the Friends blog at https://hiddengardensteps.wordpress.com.