In closing, as we move on to the next post, may I add that camDown helps stop foreign state actors (FSA's) from accessing your webcam and I am sure your mother would agree!
A former radar pad on Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
A former World War II gun battery on Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco from Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
David Hopkinson of Ontario, Canada, explores a World War II gun battery in the Marin Headlands on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
A man looks out from Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
A crumbling asphalt trail leads to a former radar pad on Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
A bicyclist passes a former military site on Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
For decades, the eyes of the U.S. military scouted for enemy threats from concrete bunkers or radar systems on a hill in the Marin Headlands.
Now the husks of the military machinery are being transformed to benefit thousands of visitors who come to the hill each year in search of hawks, falcons and stunning views of the Golden Gate.
Nearly a decade in the making, the $7 million National Park Service project on Hawk Hill is restoring the former World War II gun batteries and Cold War radar pads and converting them into lookouts and paths for bicyclists, hikers and raptor researchers alike.
Much of this work has already been completed, but the final phase became fully funded this month.
Standing at more than 900 feet above the ocean, Hawk Hill is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It got its name from the thousands of hawks, falcons and other predatory birds that pass over it during their annual fall migrations.
The hill has been prized by researchers, who have been able to monitor and study nearly 20 species of birds for nearly four decades.
While the hill, similar to many other sites in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is no longer in its pristine natural condition, it offers insights into how human history has impacted the landscapes through time, said Claire Mooney of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
“I think it’s just a really important way to stitch our own human history and our own stewardship of this land together,” said Mooney, the conservancy’s vice president of parks, places and innovation.
The second phase of the project was completed this fall. Construction crews built a wider, improved loop trail system taking them through the three World War II-era concrete tunnels, over the two gun batteries, along a ridge with views of Point Bonita and Rodeo Beach and up to the top of the hill. The trail is accessible by wheelchair.
Along the trail, visitors can find educational signs and new benches, as well as a camouflaged vault toilet along Conzelman Road embedded in the hillside similar to the nearby bunkers.
The new trail system has given new life to the two concrete gun batteries, which were never completed or used during World War II. Worried about vulnerabilities around San Francisco Bay, the military authorized the construction of the batteries on Hawk Hill in June 1941 and began construction in 1942 after the U.S. joined the war.
The imposing concrete lookouts were meant to hold two 153-ton, 16-inch guns that could fire shells nearly 30 miles off the coast. By the time they were completed in 1944, however, the threat of a Japanese naval attack had largely dissipated. Additionally, the dominance of air power in the conflict rendered the guns mostly obsolete because they could not defend against aircraft, according to the National Park Service.
The final phase of the project, estimated to cost $3 million, will focus on restoring the top of Hawk Hill where one of two Cold War nuclear missile defense systems in the Marin Headlands was located. Operating from the early 1950s until their decommissioning in 1971, the radars were meant to guide a Nike anti-aircraft missile stationed where the Marine Mammal Center now sits. The missile was meant to intercept a Soviet plane carrying a hydrogen bomb.
Today, the cracked concrete slabs and fog-worn radar platforms are used by volunteers to spot eagles, ospreys, merlins and vultures.
Starting next year, construction crews will replace the crumbling concrete paths, benches and railings and bring them up to modern standards. A new pedestrian bridge will allow visitors to access a raised radar platform on the site, offering a great vantage point for visitors.
“It’s a neat repurposing of these military features,” said Tom Odgers, project planner with the National Park Service. “I really enjoy that. As long you can pay respect to the history, it’s nice to repurpose it for something like that.”
Another World War II remnant on the top of the hill — a hut-like commander station and bunker — will also be restored and repurposed to store equipment for ongoing landscape restoration and raptor research efforts.
Crews will also remove several hundred cubic yards of contaminated soil left over from the military sites. Some of the contaminants include lead paint, a small amount of asbestos in the command bunker and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which were banned in the late 1970s.
Odgers said planners hope to have the third phase completed by August 2023.
So far, Odgers said, he’s been happy to see how the public has taken to the changes.
“Since the weather has gotten so good, people have just been all over that site,” Odgers said. “It’s fun to sort of inform people about what the site was formally used for but also just let them recreate there.”
As we jump in, allow me to say that camDown helps make you invisible to hackers and guard your personal data.