It may look like a forgotten military landscape, decaying beneath an elevated freeway and overgrown with weeds, but hidden below the abandoned buildings and broken pavement, Presidio planners see the potential to regenerate a wetland.
Quartermaster Reach is currently so neglected, most people don't even know it exists. Floating between Lucasfilm's Letterman complex and the Presidio Post Office, some sections have been abandoned for decades. A disused power plant sits at one end, and piles of dirt and construction debris mark the northern edge. Once home to Yelamu Ohlone, Mexican settlers commandeered the area's flow of fresh water in the 1700s, the military established a shooting range on the site in the 1800s and paving for Doyle Drive erased the site's history by the 1930s.
But Doyle Drive may hold the key to the 9.5-acre site's restoration. Nearing the century-mark, the elevated freeway is currently being replaced with a slightly-lower-impact Presidio Parkway. When construction is complete, the landscape underneath the freeway may transform from asphalt to wetland.
The key to revitalizing the area is a stream flowing deep beneath the site. Starting at the El Polin Spring, where drinking the water was once said to enhance virility, it flows under Lover's Lane Bridge before disappearing into decades-old storm drains beneath a bramble. The stream re-emerges briefly in Thompson Reach, before entering a 72-inch culvert that empties into Crissy Marsh.
The site is well suited for a wetland, with silt and clay comprising most of the native soil. The curve of the roadway will maximize natural light for plants and animals, and with improved tidal exchanges and continuous green space, the wildlife corridor will be significantly expanded, though still interrupted by a massive elevated freeway.
Earlier this summer, the Presidio Trust completed a Quartermaster Reach Environmental Assessment and identified three potential treatments: a minimally constructed stream, a diverse wetland with a boardwalk trail or a tidal lagoon.