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February 1999

Type: Municipal Park, SNRA park, 83 acres.
Entrance Location: Two vehicular entrance points. Most recommended is the Pine Lake Park (middle section) entrance at Crestlake and Vale which descends into the park to a large parking area. The most visible entrance is from 19th Ave & Sloat Blvd. This can be a difficult or chain-blocked off entrance, and descends to meager parking at the Rhoda Goldman Concert Meadow. It is reserved mainly for performers for park events. Thirdly, there is a walk-in entrance off Wawona near Escolita at the very western tip.
Facilities: Concert stage with folding chairs for the public. Regular public concerts free of charge. No unlocked restrooms without an event. Phone and water were not noticed. Croquet lawns, 2 tennis courts, & horseshoe pit. Adjoining Larsen Park has an indoor swimming pool (fee) which is mostly reserved for special use (classes), 2 tennis courts, basketball court, playground. Adjoining Parkside Square has 4 tennis courts, basketball court, baseball green, and playground.
Fee-Hours: No fee. No curfew noted, but after dark curfew probable.
Dogs: Pine Lake Park is used extensively for dogs off leash and is excellent for that in spite of on-leash park regulations. Very large field isolated away from streets.

Since Sigmund Stern Grove, Pine Lake Park and Laguna Puerca Lake are all a continuous event, they are considered here together as Sigmund Stern Grove. The park has a unique architecture. Its grassy fields lie along the floor of a deep recession fifteen blocks in length and a block or so wide at the base. The slopes of this recession are covered with a dense eucalyptus forest. The trees are up to an estimated 200' in height and create a thick natural screen from noise and the surrounding city. This effect is quite different than Golden Gate Park. In fact, the screen is so effective that sound made within the park is reflected back as mild echoes, an effect which can backfire and make the place feel a bit like a dungeon. On the other hand, the grassy fields allow an impressive vantage to the marvelous trees which surround and tower overhead. Because the basin is so low, it tends to be one of the wettest and coolest parks in the city. This can be good or bad depending on the season. It also makes the basin a good environment for redwood trees of which there are a very few near the Rhoda Goldman Concert Meadow on the east side. Public concerts in the park generally occur here on Sundays where there is a small permanent stage and lawn chairs lined up in front of it. Heading west, the grassy fields widens until it is quite big. This is the Pine Lake section of the park and is the most popular for daily public use. There is a large parking area down inside the park here, and on a normal day the grass is alive with a carnival of dogs of all sizes. A dogs on leash ordinance seems unduly restrictive here and few people seem to heed it. Watching dogs is fun and watching these trees is nice, but somehow the two don't go so well together. The west end of the park holds little known Laguna Puerca Lake, and why it is little known becomes clear. It is a horrible, depressing lake with awful water choked by broken reeds, weeds and tangled trees. To surrounding houses, which now are becoming visible, this west end feels like little more than a neglected backyard and that is clearly a shame.

Adjoining the park to the north are the Parkside Square Park and Larsen Park. Parkside Square adjoins what is now Edgewood School (previously a Montessori) and has a tot playground, four tennis courts, basketball courts, and a baseball diamond. Larsen Park occupies two long blocks and supports a public swimming pool (fee), one  tennis court, basketball courts, baseball diamond, playground and large areas of open grass, which are recommended for outdoor sports. There used to be the beloved hulk of a plane fuselage here as a unique plaything. Today, it is gone.

Sigmund Stern Grove is an utterly unique park, but something about it doesn't work well and can cause it to feel depressing. It's greatest qualities are as a phenomenally acoustical natural space, and in this regard the Rhoda Goldman concerts couldn't be more appropriate. One fantastic way to take advantage of the park is to bring an instrument like a flute here and play, the only problem being that this is incompatible with romping barking dogs. Stern Grove, also, would be an ideal redwood habitat, clearly a potential which has been pursued only minimally.

History: [The Grove was a gift to the City of San Francisco, made in 1931 by Rosalie M. Stern in memory of her husband, Sigmund, a distinguished civic and business leader during the first quarter of the 1900s. Mrs. Stern bought the land from George Greene, whose family homesteaded the parcel of what had been marsh and sand dunes in the middle of the 1800s. She saw to it that this majestic grove be preserved as a public park, specifying that it be used for concerts and performances. In this way, she made Sigmund Stern Grove both a memorial to her husband and a contribution to the common good.

On June 4, 1932, Stern Grove was dedicated. Two weeks later, the San Francisco Symphony played the first concert there. Mrs. Stern, then President of the San Francisco Recreation Commission and a devoted supporter of the arts, formed the Stern Grove Festival Association in 1938, stipulating that all concerts were to be free to the public and designed for everyone's enjoyment.]*

Rhoda Goldman Concert Meadow: Free concerts often occur Sundays at 2pm. Concert schedule: www.sterngrove.org  Administrative Offices: 415.252.6253  Fax: 415.252.6250.

Best Features: Ravine slopes are dense eucalyptus wilderness which are intriguing to explore. From the basin, the trees enclose the space like a natural cathedral. Sunlight easily finds the basin floor during midday. Large open space areas. Safe area.

Worst Features: Insulated feeling to the park can feel restrictive. During wet season, the basin is soggy and especially cool. Heavy dog use can be a con. West end is not pretty.

*Stern Grove history from:
www.sterngrove.org/