Dorothy Erskine was a third generation San Franciscan, the daughter of Florence Nightingale Ward and Dr. James Ward. She attended Miss Burke's School and the University of California at Berkeley, married a lawyer, traveled, wrote and finally settled down to a career in the forefront of environmental activism.
As a founding member of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), Dorothy took up the twin issues of urban blight and urban sprawl. She soon recognized that the key to stopping urban sprawl was the development of quality living spaces within existing cities. In the 1950s, Dorothy co-founded the Citizens for Regional Recreation and Parks (CRRP), as an organization to protect parks and recreational areas in the Bay Area. In the late 1960s CRRP became the People for Open Space, committed to preserving all sorts of open recreational space on a regional basis. By the 1980s, the POS had merged with their affiliated Greenbelt Congress to become the Greenbelt Alliance, an organization that is still actively working to set aside the sort of open space we enjoy so often while geocaching.
She was an environmentalist before the word even existed, raising issues that others hadn't thought of yet and organizing where there was no organization to be seen. Interviewers characterize her as "A dynamo of vision and energy."
Dorothy Erskine gave an interview once where she discussed some of SPURs activites..
It was in making a quick survey of the Bay for this last conference that Mel Scott discovered that most of the tidelands around the edges of the Bay were privately owned. The state had sold these water-covered acres for fifty cents an acre about 1870. He found that one third of the Bay had already been diked off and filled. Also, now that thousands of people were coming into the Bay Area after the war, that there were extensive plans underway for land fill throughout the whole region. The Corps of Engineers circulated a picture from their Bay study entitled "Bay or River." Mel Scott was aghast and horrified at the state of affairs. That third conference became a blast at and expose of environmental destruction. People suddenly woke up. This publicity led directly to the movement to save San Francisco Bay.
It's only fitting then that the city of San Francisco has set aside a charming little hilltop open space as Dorothy W. Erskine park. A tiny patch of undeveloped land, it has peaceful views of India Basin and the Bay beyond. Come find a small cache here and reflect on this woman who fought for the natural beauties we enjoy today.
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