SFSU: How the Community Plays – Golden Gate Park

Group of hikers in Golden Gate Park

For my recreation center observations I went to Richmond side of golden gate park near 6th street and Fulton and sat against a tree near the 6th street park entrance. This entrance is unique because it has a large circular cemented area in the center, with lawn and trees surrounding it. On the interior side of the park, there is another roadway that cars, bikes, and pedestrians use to travel into the center of the park. To my right hand side, down a short trail through the woods is a small blue playground from which I can hear many children’s voices as they are playing. Most people in the area are gathered on the outskirts of the cemented area, as there are roller skaters zooming around it, doing tricks and playing music. I overhear one of the roller skaters converse with their friend. They discuss their plans to return to this location other times in the week and it dawns on me that this must be a regular and popular location for roller skaters to come practice and have fun. The two roller skaters that I observed were both men and they were dressed in very vibrant and fun clothing. They were very skilled at roller blading and were practicing tricks and speeding around quite fast while they listened to Michael Jackson on a boom box they brought with them.

Other than the roller skaters, the majority of the people I observed were with a family or had children with them. I chose to do my observations on a sunny and warm day, so most of the people were wearing short sleeves or shorts and many of them were carrying balls or other sporting equipment for their children to play with. One group of people that I observed in detail was a father and his two children, one boy and one girl. They were particularly interesting to me because they were all standing behind a homemade lemonade stand. As people passed by on bikes, or on foot, the two children who looked about 5-7 years old would yell out to them “Lemonade! 1 dollar!” I observed them for quite a while because I hadn’t seen a lemonade stand since I had made one myself at around the same age. As I watched, I was surprised at how many people stopped to by lemonade from the two adorable kids. Their father stood by watching with joy in his eyes, and only stepping in to help with money and the making of the lemonade. After observing them for a while, I walked over to the father and decided to interview him about his experience in this recreational location. I introduced myself and he told me that his name was Dave, and introduced me to his two beautiful children (who happened to be twins), Ray and Mari. My first question I asked him was what kinds of activities he usually enjoyed in the park. He replied, “We come here often for the playgrounds because the kids love them and a lot of their friends who live nearby will come join us. We like to come over here because it’s walking distance from our house and Ray just loves watching the roller skaters. And believe it or not, we actually do the Lemonade stand pretty often.” David’s response was very positive and as I asked him more questions I could tell that Golden Gate Park was a place he and his family often enjoyed. Towards the end of our interview I asked him if there was something that could be improved in the park, and if so, what was it. He struggled to come up with an answer for a while and then replied; “I think the park has a lot going on and a lot of fun activities for kids. Updating the playground near my house (6th and Fulton) would be a nice improvement. It seems a bit small and outdated, recently my kids have gotten too big for it.”

After taking to David and observing the other park users throughout the day, I realized that the main demographic in this location of the park were families.  About 75% of the adults I observed were with children. Many of the children had balls or other sporting gear to play with while in the park… Most park users I saw were actually women and many of the children that I observed were accompanied by women supervision only. Even the joggers and bikers I saw were primarily women, although there were many men enjoying the park as well. Because it was a sunny day, most of the people were in light clothing, and dependable shoes. The age range for the children that I saw was mostly 3-10 years of age. The adults that I observed were primarily Caucasian, between 25-40 years of age, and seemed to be middle class. All of the park users seemed to be locals who lived in San Francisco, as many of the people I observed entered the park on foot.

Overall, my experience at this Golden Gate Park location was very enjoyable and opened my eyes to how San Francisco community members make use of Golden Gate Park. The range of activities that I observed proved that the park was accessible for everyone and encouraged recreational use of all kinds. The main users of the park, however, were families with young children. For this reason, 3 things that I would suggest to further improve Golden Gate park in order to better manage and enhance the visitor experience would be: (1) Something to encourage millennial to also make use of the park such as basketball courts (2) More separation between pedestrians and bicyclists, and (3) Consistent improvement of the park playgrounds based on local children’s needs. These three improvements would encourage park use for other ages besides the age range currently observed, would increase bicyclist and pedestrian safety, and would encourage the continued use of the many children who commonly enjoy Golden Gate Park.