On the southeastern shoreline of San Francisco, birds are coming back, and native plants like sea plantain, coming back to a place called Heron’s Head Park which has undergone a phoenix-like transformation from its original incarnation as landfill. At least 68 or so native species have been planted here, one at a time, many by local school kids. Literally thousands of tons of debris were hauled away in the making of Heron’s Head Park, some years ago. Ever since the sea-change to bring back the marshlands occurred in relatively recent times, people are working hard to make places like this not only good for humans, but also for the local flora and fauna.
Heron’s Head Park juts out into the water like its namesake bird, and straddles two worlds—the old industrial one of warehouses built onto docks and hulking tankers, and the world of pickle weed, eelgrass and plovers. Along the walk there are interpretive signs on the local flora and fauna, and man’s impact. At the tip of the heron’s bill, so to speak, is a boulder-strewn area where you might spot a seal. You will certainly see a lot of birds.
Heron’s Head Park is also home to the Eco Center, built on a hillock by the main entrance. It claims to be the first environmental justice education facility in the Bay Area, and to that end it is both off-the-grid and plugged into the local community in terms of ecological education and outreach. It’s a very cool looking place with a living roof, a model marsh inside, and impressive water tanks.
If you are game for extra exploration, follow the bay trail south along the former PG&E site—it’s all well marked with trails and some signs—to the India Basin playground. Further south is a Popeye-looking collection of ramshackle houses and boats, and then India Basin Park, another open space destined for marshland restoration, hopefully, in the near future.
If you liked this article, please click here to read about the Blue Greenway, a proposed trail system along SF’s southeastern shoreline.
Click here to read a poem about Heron’s Head by Hallie Sinore.