Mission Dolores Park is not like most other parks. Except that it is. Covered in grass, this open space has palm trees, a playground, sports facilities and benches.
So why is Dolores so popular? Why do people from all over the city gather in this one particular spot? Why are busy tech and start up workers willing to use their precious weekend time to just sit and hang out in this particular park?
I couldn’t put my finger on what made the park so special for a long time. In fact, I still don’t think I’ve nailed it. Maybe it’s because of the great view, or that it’s a wide open space without lots of trees, or that it’s hilly so it doesn’t feel like a field, or that the surrounding buildings aren’t more than a few stories tall so it doesn’t feel cramped, or that people drink in the park and no-one seems to care that it’s illegal. But somehow it’s much more than the sum of its parts.
What matters though is that people use it. Instead of going to the mall or the beach on a sunny day like they do in Sydney, San Franciscans go to the park. They bring their food and their booze and they’re happy to just sit and relax. There may be people dancing, or others throwing a football, or others selling brownies (yes, those sort of brownies), but at least people are there making use of the park.
And as special as Dolores is, all the parks I’ve walked through in this city have been well used. Community spaces bring people together, and more so than in Sydney, San Franciscans make great use of these spaces.
Maybe it’s just what people do here, or maybe it’s because warm, sunny days aren’t as common as they are back home, but it has made me realise the importance of parks for a city, and has made me appreciate how great a simple outing to the park can be.
So when I’m back home, let’s go sit in the park.