City heralds opening of first full-service park in a decade

The City welcomed its largest new park and playground in 10 years this weekend in the South of Market Area.

Victoria Manalo Draves Park, on Folsom Street between Sixth and Seventh streets, opened on Friday on the former site of Bessie Carmichael School in a neighborhood that has long asked for more parks and open space, according to Supervisor Chris Daly’s office.

“The opening of the Victoria Manalo Draves Park is a milestone in the transformation of this neighborhood, which has come about after years of community advocacy to rebuild Bessie and establish a new and much needed open space in SoMa,” Daly said.

The two-acre park has a softball field, a picnic area, a basketball court and a playground for children. It is the first full-service park to open in The City in 10 years, according to Daly’s office. And it comes in an area that has been experiencing a lot of development and revitalization, but where open space opportunities are limited because of the layout of the neighborhood and its proximity to downtown.

“We are proud to open this long awaited and state-of-the- art neighborhood asset and the kind of public space that has been in such scarce supply in SoMa,” said Yomi Agunbiade, the general manager of the Recreation and Parks Department, in a statement.

Just a year ago, the lot vacated by the school and where the park was eventually built was deemed a neighborhood blight. Residents had asked for the school to be rebuilt with an adjacent park.

The naming of the park after local Olympic hero Victoria Manalo Draves was important to the community as well, according to Daly. He said Draves, who was born to British and Filipino immigrant parents, grew up in the neighborhood, went to school there and was the first woman to win gold metals in both springboard and platform diving events during the 1948 Olympics.

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