New Guardians for the Golden Gate: How America Got a Great National Park, by Amy Meyer with Randolph Delehanty, UC Press, 2006, 338 pages, $29.95
How quickly we forget. Less than 40 years ago, the Presidio was an active army base. Less than 40 years ago, developers nearly succeeded in pushing through plans to create Marincello, a new city in the Marin Headlands. Less than 40 years ago, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was just a set of ambitious lines drawn on a map by a determined group of activists riding a groundswell of grassroots support.
Amy Meyer was one of the key figures of that group, and with New Guardians, she charts their setbacks and victories while trying to establish one of the largest urban parks in the country. Starting with her first neighborhood meeting, she takes us from 1970 to 2004, describing many turning-point events in blow-by-blow detail. Along the way, she introduces and quotes from all the major players, including U.S. Representatives Phil Burton and Nancy Pelosi, the Sierra Club’s Ed Wayburn, and Barbara Boxer, among others. In fact, if the book suffers in any way, it is only from its wealth of detail. But Meyer’s primary goal here was to give a thorough and accurate account of a great chapter in California’s environmental history. In that, she has succeeded in spades.