Dolores Park reopens with cheers and candles

With the theme of “Light up Dolores,” San Franciscans welcomed the opening of 13.7-acre Mission Dolores Park with a grand reopening party Wednesday night after a nearly two-year, $20.5 million renovation.

With the chain link fences taken down, the southern portion of Dolores Park displayed lush new turf, new restrooms, elevated paved pathways, and an additional overlook from the southwest corner of the coveted gathering space, among other updates.

Locals and visitors of all ages were encouraged and invited to bring joyous luminous toys and clothing for the celebration scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. There was no stage or official ceremony, and San Francisco citizens welcomed the occasion with flashlights, glow-in-the-dark clothing, and illuminated props ranging from balloons to floating jellyfish.

Pathways were also lined with electric candles within white paper bags, guiding visitors to the thousands of individuals in attendance.

Photos by Peter Snarr/SFBay

Patricia Solano, a San Francisco native and mother, brought her two sons Angel, 8, and Ramon, 7, to play and participate:

“I’ve been coming to Dolores since I was a kid and it’s always been the place to play and relax and grow up in SF. … I’m just glad the remodeling finally tackled the common muddy flood areas and made the bathrooms cleaner and safer for my kids. They’ve changed the park for the better.”

Angel, her son, quickly quipped:

“There were always these giant, cool rats near the garbage cans but you don’t see them anymore.”

Originally slated for a January 14 opening, the San Francisco Rec and Parks postponed the ceremony due to a series of torrential downpours to preserve the recently planted grass.

Completed in two stages, the north side of the park was finished in June 2015. It was renovated with new, illuminated tennis and basketball courts, bathrooms, and better irrigation underneath the fresh sod.

Kelly Baptiste, a recreational tennis player sporting neon clothing while practicing her backhand, said the Dolores Park tennis courts are one of the best in the area and in one of the best parks in San Francisco:

“They are one of the few that are illuminated, as well as free. But more than that, Dolores Park is the heart of The City and welcomes everyone no matter who or what their interests are.”