Located on the southwestern-most hill in San Francisco, Brooks Park has sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, the Farallones, and Mt. Tamalpais. Wildlife such as grizzly bears, elk, and foxes once roamed the area, as did a wide variety of birds. Some of the plants once used by Native Americans have survived and are still growing in the park; for example, you can see the flowers of bulbs (Ithuriel’s spear, blue-dicks) they roasted and ate.
From 1846 to 1852, the area from Mount Davidson to Lake Merced was part of the huge Rancho San Miguel, owned by Jose de Jesus Noe (for whom Noe Valley is named). By the 1920s the land had been parceled out to the City and County of San Francisco and other buyers, and the Brooks family bought a half-acre site on the hilltop that would become Brooks Park. A woman ahead of her time, Mrs. Brooks composted organic materials, kept beehives, and taught visitors about native plant gardening.
When the Brooks family moved to La Honda in 1978, the city bought the property as parkland. Unfortunately, the Brooks house burned down and the park fell into disrepair, becoming a haven for nighttime partying and vandalism.
In 1987 Peter Vaernet, neighbor and activist, and his neighbors decided that Brooks Park had too much potential to be ignored. They formed the Friends of Brooks Park, a block club, and organized work parties to clean up the park after years of neglect. Neighbors started a massive anti-graffiti effort and began removing broken glass and other refuse.
In 1990, the Friends of Brooks Park requested a grant from the Open Space Committee to acquire the hillside’s surrounding six acres and enlarge the park to its present size. The $1.3 million grant was approved in 1994. The gated entranceway was built in 1990 with funds from the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners. A community garden now graces the east side of the park, and native plant restoration and environmental education with the Natural Areas Program and California Native Plant Society continue through monthly work parties.
Brooks Park is the winner of the Trust for Public Land’s Lackmann-Soulages Park and Open Space Stewardship Award and a 2005 San Francisco Beautiful Award.