Political Notebook: Local National Park Service staff to march in SF Pride

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Wednesday June 22, 2016
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Under the National Park Service's uniform rules, employees are required to wear their ranger hats with their official uniforms whenever they are outdoors, with very few exceptions.

So when members of the Gay and Lesbian Association of the National Park Service decided two years ago to have an official contingent for the first time in years in San Francisco's Pride parade, its members fully expected they would march adorned in their iconic headgear.

Yet Christine Lenhertz, a lesbian who, at the time, was the regional director for the park service's Pacific West region, recalled that the group was told its members couldn't wear their uniforms in the parade. So she lodged a complaint against the directive, leading the Office of the Solicitor for the Department of the Interior to weigh in and agree with Lenhertz that there was no reason to ban the uniforms from the parade.

"We were allowed to march in our uniforms," said Lenhertz, now the superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in an interview this spring with the Bay Area Reporter .

Not only that, but the small contingent of several dozen marchers "were carrying an enormous National Park Ranger hat" �" á la the enormous headwear featured in the long-running San Francisco show Beach Blanket Babylon, recalled Alexandra Picavet, formerly a spokeswoman for the GGNRA who is now the chief of communications for the park service's Midwest Region.

This year local Park Service staff will again be marching in the Pride parade. Employees at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park have taken the lead in organizing the contingent, as last year's parade participation was coordinated by staff with several national parks in the East Bay, said Michele Gee, the GGNRA's chief of interpretation and education.

In an email, Gee wrote that, "2014 was not the first time," the Park Service had a presence in San Francisco's Pride parade, as her "understanding (was) that NPS marched prior but it may have been a decade ago." 

The National Park Service will mark its centennial this August 25 and is also expected to soon release a National Historic Landmark LGBTQ Theme Study and proposed framework titled "LGBTQ America." As the B.A.R. has previously reported, the report is a coast-to-coast effort to bring to greater attention the oft-buried history of the country's LGBTQ community.

"Uncovering these stories gives us a truer understanding of our American heritage, and a new way to see the connections between diverse American experiences," wrote Leslie Crippen in "Finding Our Place: Queer Heritage in the U.S.," a 28-page report released in April by the park service's Cultural Resources Office of Outreach.

The park service will be uploading the various chapters of the theme study in PDF form online at https://www.nps.gov/subjects/tellingallamericansstories/lgbtqthemestudy.htm.

In the meantime, the list of LGBTQ sites on the National Register of Historic Places continues to increase. In May the Park Service added, as detailed in a Facebook post, the Edificio Comunidad de Orgullo Gay de Puerto Rico, which "served as the meeting hall for the first gay/lesbian organization established in Puerto Rico," and the Furies Collective house in Washington, D.C., which housed "a lesbian feminist collective that in the early 1970's created and led the debate over lesbians' place in American society."

And President Barack Obama, who over the weekend visited Yosemite National Park in California's Sierra Nevada, is widely expected to designate the area around New York City's famous gay bar the Stonewall Inn as the country's first LGBT national monument.


SF Zoo celebrates Pride

Also returning to the Pride parade this year is the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens, which is hosting four days of special events for visitors of the zoological park near Ocean Beach.

"This is the first time SF Zoo has had a float in the Pride parade since 2012. Our float will feature elements of our newly opened Mexican gray wolf exhibit, but there will still be plenty of color, including pink!" Rachel Eslick, the zoo's marketing communications manager, told the B.A.R.

The festivities begin Thursday, June 23, which is both Pink Flamingo Day and National Pink Day. The zoo is asking its guests to wear pink, as it is decorating its Zoo Street, the walkway from the gatehouse to Leaping Lemur Cafe and the adjacent exhibit of Chilean flamingos, with plastic pink flamingos, ribbons and more.

The zoo will also have supplies available near the flamingo exhibit for visitors to make pink decorations to adorn its Pride float. Special pink food will also be on sale, such as sugar cookies with pink frosting and Rice Krispy treats with pink sprinkles.

"We celebrate one another and stand in solidarity with Orlando victims, friends, family and the entire community," stated the zoo on the event page for its Pride weekend.

For more information, visit http://www.sfzoo.org.


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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected].