Windfall to precede parks anniversary 

As the agency that oversees many of the United States’ priceless historical and natural landmarks nears its 100th anniversary, Bay Area residents sounded off Thursday on how the National Park Service can spend the $3 billion earmarked for it over the next 10 years.

The service, founded in 1916, administers some 400 natural, cultural and recreational sites nationwide, including more than a dozen sites in the Bay Area. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area alone covers 90,000 acres.

To mark the anniversary of the service, the federal government has undertaken an initiative to pump $3 billion into the system over the next 10 years. Of that money, $100 million per year will go directly to the park service for staffing, said Brian O’Neill, superintendent of the Golden Gate National Parks. Another $100 million per year will be available to match private money donated to the parks, for a total $3 billion infusion of money into the system.

To help spend the money, the park service is conducting a series of "listening sessions" nationwide, at which it takes input from the public and makes park officials available for conversations and questions. At a recent session at San Francisco’s Presidio, attendees typed their suggestions into computers provided by the service.

San Francisco resident Vicki Tiernan said she had called for continued access to off-leash dog areas, while Nancy Dupont, of Walnut Creek, said she had urged the service to continue to involve horses in its parks, both by allowing equestrian access and by having mounted rangers.

"One thing I’d like to see is that everything in the National Park Service runs on alternative, clean, sustainable energy sources," said Rebecca Pottenger, who traveled from Sacramento to attend the session.

"The Bay Area has a diverse population, with many folks who have no experience with [national] parks," said Jonathan Jarvis, director of the service’s Pacific West Region. He said a goal for the service locally is to "reach out to those communities and make them feel welcome," by translating park literature into other languages and including immigrant histories in park displays.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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