Thursday, April 29, 2010

Victoria Manalo Draves Park

Victoria Manalo Draves, the great Olympic diver and San Francisco native, has died. A wonderful park named for her can be found on Folsom Street in South of Market near where she was raised. Soon after it opened San Francisco Beautiful gave the park an award. Here is an excerpt of my presentation of that award when I was SFB’s Executive Director:

"…[A] sunny and green public park has opened…spanning a massive South of Market block. Victoria Manalo Draves is an Olympic gold medal winner, a diver who grew up around the corner from the park named for her, the first American woman, the first Asian woman and the first Filipina to win an Olympic medal. SoMa neighbors, led by the South of Market Community Action Network and the South of Market Project Area Committee collaborated with the Recreation and Park Department to design and build the new park. In a neighborhood landlocked in a sea of concrete, residents wanted their park to be green so wide, grassy lawns and a baseball field stretch across the space. The basketball court is constantly in use. A lively playground anchors the park, and just beyond it, carrots, radishes and sweet basil spill over the planter beds in the community garden. Jason Ortega grew up in the neighborhood and has his own plot in the garden. Jason leads the Friends of Victoria Manalo Draves Park, community stewards who fought for the park and come every day to keep it clean. Near-by resident Laura Weil got Stan the Submerging Man, an art sculpture from Burning Man, installed near the playground. Stan is an 18-foot-tall figure lit from within and constructed of reclaimed plastic toys and colored vinyl demo records. Irene Pijoan designed decorative fencing that celebrates creatures from the air and sea.[...]"

To read my full narrative and see the accompanying drawing (and all of that year’s award recipients) by the incomparable Robin Chiang, go to, click on Awards and go to the 2007 Awards Presentation.

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