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America Is Your Park! From Railroad to Playground

By mikeadamick |

Juri Commons playground

The railroad cut through farmland and rolling hills, pasture land where cattle grazed and farmers and ranchers tended the wild remains of what would become a metropolis. It curved and twisted, zigging its way toward the tip of a peninsula, carrying passengers and farm implements and livestock.

Started in 1864, the Southern Pacific railroad spur carved a legacy of twisting routes. For decades, the iron horse was a sight to behold. But by 1907, a new railroad line, one along the waterfront, took over the main duty of carrying supplies to the tip of San Francisco. By 1942, the old line was pretty much abandoned — the farmland having given way to neighborhoods, the same neighborhoods where I now live with my family.

If you walk a certain route, you can still see remnants of the railroad. Buildings are cut at odd angles, as if squeezed in as close as possible to the old line. There are triangle homes and some that just appear to be cut in half.

Then there is the park.

You can see how the railroad used to just rumble through Juri Commons. The park is linear, having been built on the abandoned line right-of-way. I’m not exactly sure when the playground equipment went up, but I’m guessing not long after the park was conceived so many years ago. The wood steps are shattered. The metal slide is bent. The swings and monkey bars appear rusty and flaked with age.

And yet, day after day, this humble little miracle of a park, squeezed into land once dominated by industry, attracts families of all types: the stay-at-home dads looking to let the littles burn off steam, the nannies on their phones, the dog walkers and their puffy blue bags, the teenagers coyly smoking and kissing, and business types strolling through on their way to BART. I frequently imagine so many passengers on the former train, all squeezed together from all walks of life on their journeys into San Francisco. And here, more than a 100 years later, all walks of life are again squeezed into the same land. I like the historical symmetry and it’s one of the reasons I sought help for this park.

I nominated this antiquated little patch of park for an America Is Your Park campaign, a program set up by Coca-Cola to provide recreation grants to parks, because I see so much potential in the continuing reuse of this land. Once a railroad, it is now a thriving park— just one in need of a little tender care to keep it going. I can see more people using this space on any given day, if maybe it were a little brighter, a little cleaner. There’s a mural showing a train cutting through the land and kids playing nearby, and I can only imagine how cool it would be to create a playground with a train-theme for kids to frolic and remember what it was like when those ancient iron horses rumbled and hooted through town.

As part of the Coca-Cola campaign, four parks will receive recreation grants for fix-ups. If Juri Commons isn’t your favorite — why would it be? — you can nominate your own or vote for one close to you at this voting page. The first place park receives $100,000, while the second gets $50,000 and the third is in line for $25,000. A wildcard draw will receive $15,000.

That’s plenty of money to go around to help fix up some parks in need. I hope you’ll take a look and help make some better.

This is sponsored content from Babble and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions expressed in the post are my own and not those of Coca-Cola. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Only legal residents of the 50 U.S. (and D.C.) who are at least 13 years old and reside within the U.S. at the time of participation are eligible to vote for a Park. Participate on behalf of a Park by: July 15, 2012. The 3 most popular Parks will be offered a grant and there will be 1 Wild Card drawing at the end of the Contest to award an additional grant. To participate, for Official Rules, and complete details including grant descriptions, visit Void where prohibited. Click here to see more of the discussion.

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About mikeadamick



As the “Daddy Issues” columnist for and a prime mover at “The Poop,” the parenting blog of the San Francisco Chronicle, Mike Adamick is no stranger to writing about modern fatherhood with wit and wisdom. He blogs at Cry It Out! Read bio and latest posts → Read mikeadamick's latest posts →

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14 thoughts on “America Is Your Park! From Railroad to Playground

  1. Alix says:

    So cool! I thing preserving history like this is so important! Good luck

  2. gail says:

    i agree with Alix! Wish we had something like that near us!

  3. Kelly K. says:

    I can’t believe this was a railroad!! That’s incredible!!

  4. Doug F. says:

    We need to get people to VOTE! There’s a great park in Tulsa that needs your help, guys!

  5. skip says:

    Madison Street, New York

    My kid’s friends worked on an urban planning project to reconstruct and restore this place! They worked hard plotting a fountain and benches, and just a great clean space for the public.

  6. Toby B. says:

    I think my kids would love the idea of having a railroad-themed park :)

  7. Thomas says:

    You’re right…the reuse of land should be taken very seriously. We should take a lot of pride in our parks and keep them clean, fun and updated.

  8. mikeadamick says:

    Wow! Thanks! That’s an awful lot of comments … from the same email. And the same computer.

  9. SunnyChanel says:

    That’s pretty awesome. You know, I’ve lived in SF my entire life, have been to Juri Commons a couple of times and NEVER knew that it was once a railroad. Day + new = learn. Love it. Now I need to go back down there soon and explore it’s railroad past.

  10. Selena Mae says:

    You’ve got me here. I LOVE old railroads, and I especially love hearing the history of the land from when they were in use. I too, am an fan of the under-dog.

  11. laurenjimeson says:

    That is amazing! Love how they preserved some of it’s history. Makes the park just that much more special.

  12. designhermomma says:

    I don’t think we have anything like this in Indiana. My 2 year old would go bonkers for a bit of train history in a park!

  13. casi says:

    What a great story! Love old railroads + love that Coca-Cola is doing this for 4 local parks — that is 4 chances — so amazing! Good luck!

  14. Meghan says:

    It’s so fun to hear the history of some of these parks. Most of our local parks are the required “open space” of housing developments, which is much less interesting…

    Sounds like your park could really use some updating. I hope it happens for you soon!

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