Elena Eichelberger's picture
Changing histories: Military battlements to Newt Nation
Elena Eichelberger
December 9, 2013 - 10:32am

Located just northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge, thousands of students a year travel to NatureBridge’s Golden Gate campus. NatureBridge programs at Golden Gate integrate the land’s cultural and environmental histories for dynamic and interactive lessons.

The collaborative work of NatureBridge and the National Park Service operates as a function of demilitarizing land and pushes land usage towards education and nurturing generations of conservationists.

The area has a vibrant and rich history, from the Miwok people who first lived on this land, to the Spanish colonizers and priests, to the Portuguese cattle farmers who occupied the hills of the Marin Headlands.

More recently, the land was used as a military outlook because of its view of the San Francisco Bay; military presence escalated during WWI, the Cold War, and WWII.

Although there are sloughs of histories present at Golden Gate, the military presence is more visible because the structures they have left behind remain in the park long after military batteries are taken apart or shipped to other sites. These structures have become tourist attractions to visitors of the park and also teaching opportunities for NatureBridge students.

One such opportunity is Newt Nation. Once a foundation for Battery Townsley’s large guns, all that remains is a concrete bowl where a gun once sat.

The former battery—now a concrete hole—is filled year round with water, plants, and newts. Thought to be a closed ecosystem because of the pool’s depth, Newt Nation serves as a powerful teaching tool “exposing students to population dynamics, independent ecosystems, water levels, and human/nature adaptation to each other” says Rachel Loud, a former NatureBridge educator. 

Pivotal examples like Newt Nation are reminders that nature adapts to the presence of humans, and even former military sites can be used as tools for education.