SFSU: How the Community Plays – Mission Dolores Park

Dolores Park and view of city

Mission Dolores Park is a beautiful open space that is very popular in San Francisco, especially among the young adults of the community. Currently, a section of the park is under construction, but that did not stop anyone from coming to enjoy the lovely space Dolores Park has to offer. As you look across the park you see many blankets strewn across the grass, many containing picnics or simply friends coming together to spend time outside. There are so many different activities one can see happening when looking out through the park. There was anything from “slack-lining” to Frisbee to playing live music and even some drinking and smoking. Upon observing the park and the many people in it, I began to think of Dolores Park as a very free space where those in it can feel open and relaxed. No one looked restricted in any way because in this open space they were able to drink, smoke, dance, and play freely.

At the park I noticed a group of young adults who having a picnic above the playground, overlooking the entire park. Later, I discovered that these people were college students enjoying their day off in the sun. Just as many other groups of people at the park, this group of five students had a blanket spread across the grass, but they came ready with a picnic. The students had an assortment of sandwiches, brownies, cookies, chips, and even some Chinese take-out. To further set the mood for the picnic, they came prepared with wireless speakers to listen to music while they chowed down. One young man also brought along a guitar to play. Even from afar, I could tell that the close friends were having a great time relaxing and enjoying each other’s company out in Dolores Park, away from school. There were some small instances of group singing as well as several swells of laughter, and it was obvious that they were having a good time. Of course, they weren’t alone in the park, and several times dogs came by to crash the picnic. The students did not mind, and in fact welcomed the rambunctious puppies with open arms. Through this the students met the dogs’ owners, and it was nice to see new people meeting in the park.

Meagan Tell was one of the students participating in the picnic, and she was gracious enough to grant me a brief interview with her. Through the interview I discovered that her roommates and some friends decided to go out since all of them had the day off from their classes at SFSU. Meagan said that she was a regular Dolores Park goer, and she goes to the park, “usually about twice a month, but I went twice yesterday”. When I spoke with her I could tell that she really enjoyed spending time at the park. Meagan said, “I just love being outdoors and watching all the people who go to the park. There are many interesting people. It’s a great place to relax because it has a lot of room and everyone comes out with their blankets. I just really enjoy it here”. The only criticism she gave for the park was, “They should have more public restrooms and drinking fountains that are easy to get to because it is such a big space”.  She continued to describe the culture of the park as one where mostly college students and people in their later twenties go to drink, smoke, and relax with other friends, and yet at the same time many families come with young children to play in the park. Meagan said that she believes everyone should come to the park, because the people are very nice and it is a beautiful space.  Mission Dolores Park truly is a great place for young adults to relax and be free.