A couple of weeks ago, San Francisco was closed for a major triathlon and an unnamed event in Golden Gate Park. We fought our way through town and went to Treasure Island.
Named after Stevenson’s novel, Treasure Island, it is also a creation — the island was built on a shallow piece of San Francisco Bay for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. No sign of ‘black spots’ or pirates, but you’d be hard pressed to find a flatter place to walk than Treasure Island.
After the exposition, Treasure Island was used as the US Naval Base and is now a mishmash of semi-restored buildings, abandoned(?) Navy industrial-looking projects, playing fields, apartments and hopes.
We headed to the Oakland or North Bay side of the island, passing fields busy with kids playing soccer, baseball and lacrosse. It was windy and misty, but we had one good view of the Bay Bridge construction.
A drive or walk around the island perimeter, is about 4 miles – unfortunately not all with sidewalks. Little traffic for hazard free walking made it easy on the day we were there.
On the other side of the island, (back near the entrance) along the Avenue of Palms are great views of San Francisco. On this particular day, we were protected from the wind.
The main expo building that used to house the Navy museum is not as charming as the buildings for the Pan-American Expo, but I liked the massive sculptures. The artists created them to express Pacific unity. (It was short-lived, given the Pacific arena of World War II.)
Treasure Island was decommissioned by the Navy in 1996. It is now part of San Francisco, but is still owned by the Navy. The Navy had used the island as a training center for nuclear decontamination and other kinds of hazard trainings. The City of San Francisco and the Navy continue to debate the toxic contamination on the island and the purchase price.
On a beautiful sunny day, with children at play and grand views, one can ignore the passion that keeps this island mired in politics and money struggles. At some point, major condo development will win out. For now you can enjoy the peaceful mishmash.
Other features: Café, boat harbor, wineries and wine tasting businesses and occasional music festivals. Excellent Flea market with food, wine, music, antiques and fleas, admission $3. Next market: March 30th – 31st.
Directions: Take Yerba Buena/Treasure Island exit off the Bay Bridge. Wind your way around Yerba Buena (the hilly island) and drive out Treasure Island (the flat one). Route 108 MUNI bus runs to the island if you’re so inclined.
On your way on or off Yerba Buena Island be careful with the bridge traffic.
Update winter of 2013: With more reports of radiation contamination, residents are being evicted from Treasure Island. A cleanup that won’t end?
Words by Lynn Millar
Photos by Mike Millar