“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Meed
The neighbors of Esmeralda Slide Park and city officials gathered on Saturday, June 24th to celebrate the installation of a new tile mosaic in the plaza of the park. Officials from the Department of Public Works showed their support in working with the neighborhood. They joked about the tenacity, good humor and stubbornness of the people of the Northwest Bernal block in getting the project done.
Joan Carson and Nancy Windesheim spearheaded finishing the project by fundraising in the neighborhood when city funding fell through. They worked together on a GoFundMe campaign and raised $14,000 in a month.
“The Locator”, a compass pointing in four directions: Cortland Avenue, Bernal Hill, Downtown and Mission Street, sits at the entrance of the park plaza.
Enlisting the help of tile artist Rachel Rodi, they designed and installed it to help people find their way from the park. Raising 133 donations from 128 private donors, support from the Department of Public Works and some stealthy negotiating with Heath Ceramics, the two neighbors pulled off completing the public art piece that was originally promised by the city. They also did their part to ensure the maintenance of a mini park with deep roots in Bernal Heights.
The park was conceived and created in 1978-1979 by neighbors who wanted a park between Precita and Holly park for kids to play. At that time, it was successful outcome of government and community cooperation. Many Bernal Heights neighbors remember Mayor Dianne Feinstein taking a turn on the twin slides at the ribbon cutting.
By the late 1990’s the slides were in danger of closing because they needed such expensive repair. Again, the Bernal Community rallied together and secured city funds to restore the park.
In 2000, Joan Carson and her husband Wayne Harriman bought a house close to the park. About seven years ago they took an active role in planting and maintaining it.
“It was a big deal to raise the money privately and I want to show my gratitude to the community. This is a community event for the people who supported us to make this project happen and the mini park look nicer,” Joan said.
We live in a time where neighborhood communities are breaking down in San Francisco. The locator compass can also symbolize the directions we are facing as citizens of this city. Where we’ve come from is a Bernal Heights known for its enthusiastic, engaged, activists who know and care about their neighbors. The way ahead seems bleak and dark with the high cost of living and people stressed about making ends meet. What’s left is to discover a different lifestyle that blends both the eclectic feeling with the modern tech age. The right way can emerge from the ashes of the dark times we’re in. This is a time for people to wake up, find their true north and actively build stronger communities.
Photos courtesy of Rachel Rodi Mosaics and Todd Lappin at Bernalwood
Jen Baxter is a writer, photographer and San Francisco native. She tells stories encouraging people to be more independent, aware and creative. You can find other articles at JenBaxter.comor follow her on Instagram @JenBaxterSF