Records were made, and broken, on Oct. 2 at Fort Point for the Trails Forever dinner in support of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
This beloved event, held annually in one-of-a-kind locales within the 75,000-plus acre parks system which comprise our beautiful Golden Gate National Recreation Area, raised a record $885K for maintenance and preservation of those precious park trails.
Thanks to the expert leadership of event co-chairwomen Nancy Bechtle and her daughter, Jessica Galloway, the delightful evening was an early sellout.
And the first time a dinner tent (designed by Robert Fountain in a clever homage of muskets, flags and pewter tankards to the Fort’s 1860s military origins) has ever been erected in the parking lot of Fort Point.
Leading the charge on such “firsts” might seem daunting. But this dynamic mother-and-daughter duo said planning was a breeze. Especially as our famously fickle weather cooperated: blue skies, no fog and a full, plump Harvest moon which shimmered over the bay.
“Well,” deadpanned Nancy’s husband, Joachim Bechtle, pointing out some bobbing figures in the surf as they walked into the majestic setting. “You can’t imagine how difficult it was get those surfers in place just as the party is starting!”
Trails Forever is a party that everyone loves, including (and especially) the menfolk. As there is no fancy-pants, black-tie dress code here. Instead, guests are advised to don Trail-Chic. Which, blessedly, translates to plaid, quilted vests and blue jeans. Nice ones, that is.
Guests excitedly arrived for cocktails which were served within the historic courtyard of the old Civil War-era brick fort. Within, they delighted to the jaunty tunes of Poor Man’s Whiskey (courtesy of Nancy’s brother, Warren Hellman and his famed Bluegrass Festival; and where later joined for an impromptu tune by dinner guest and crooner Chris Isaak) and enjoyed a sunset flag ceremony and canon salute.
Also saluting? Mayor Gavin Newsom who joked that while he was pleased for Trails Forever and the day’s concurrent Avon Breast Cancer Walk, the crush of infrastructure to support both events had taken away his jogging day along Crissy Field.
“It’s amazing that we have such spectacular open space in such close proximity to dense, urban space,” said Newsom. “The Conservancy’s excellent work in maintaining these spaces is leading by example. And it’s the city that is trying to catch up to them!”
Guests supped upon a super McCall Associates’ supper which was titled, Rations. But oh, what rations! Vegetable soup, braised short-rib beef tournedo “hash” in a red-wine sauce with garlic mashed potatoes, and cheesecake-and-berry “Cannonball” dessert which was served in a trail-ready Mason jar and washed down with shots of Bulleit Bourbon.
GGNPC Board Chairman (and auctioneer extraordinaire) Mark Buell took his place at the podium to lead the live auction of luxury park packages.
“You know my mantra: If you have another glass of wine, it helps with the bidding,” enthused Buell, pre-bid. “Well tonight, we also have some bourbon to help you along!”
Adding to the bottom line? Ron Conway scored a night tour and dinner on Alcatraz and Charlotte Shultz scored a Marin hilltop luncheon under the Hawk migration flyway. Inspired to up the auction ante, Jonathan Kaplan jumped in and promised each winning bidder one of his company’s Flip video cameras.
Standing in the darkness as laughter rose from the well-lighted tent, the location was a dreamscape: bracketed between the sparkling city skyline beyond and the mighty Golden Gate Bridge above; all neatly framed by twinkling campfires lining the point’s seawall.
Yet one shining star was missing that night: Brian O’Neill, the beloved and inspirational GGNRA Superintendent who died last May.
GGNPC Executive Director Greg Moore paid tribute to his friend and colleague with a pre-dinner toast.
“About six years ago, Brian brought the idea of the Trails Forever dinner to our partner, the Presidio Trust. Most people assumed it was his borne out of his dedication to preserving trails,” explained Moore. “But Brian also liked to have fun. And I think he just knew what great parties we would hold in support of the Golden Gate National Parks!"
To continue O’Neill’s legacy, the GGNPC also established the Brian O’Neill Youth Leaders Fund to assist young people pursuing careers in public service and conservation.
A point under-scored by Jessica Galloway.
“As a mother-and-daughter team, it was an honor to work on this event together,” said Galloway, of her mom and event co-chair. “Because we know how much parks mean to families, to moms, to dads and to future generations.”
P.S. We just received in the mail (as did all guests) a beautiful Michael Schwab-designed Parks note card which included a thank-you memo and event photo from Trails co-chairwomen.
Now, we go to a lot of gala events. Too many to count. But never before have we received such a lovely and personalized post-event wrap-up.
To which we say a “Big” bravo to Nancy and Jessica! And with the 8th Trails Forever dinner already looming on the event horizon, ladies, we also add a hopeful, Tag! You’re It!
Check out more photos below
Trails Forever event co-chairwomen Nancy Bechtle and Jessica Galloway
Alice Waters and GGNPC Director Greg Moore
National Park Service Historian Stephen Haller and Parks' volunteer Steve Johnson
Susie Tompkins Buell and her husband, GGNPC Board Chairman and auctioneer extraordinaire Mark Buell
Nancy Bechtle and Mayor Gavin Newsom
Trails Forever Dinner tent at Fort Point
Poor Man's Whiskey entertained the troops during cocktails
GGNPC Trustee Walter Haas and his wife, Julie Haas
Robert Fountain's musket-and-flag centerpieces
Yosemite Fund President Michael Tollefson raises a glass to the gala
Brooks and Summer Walker
GGNPC Trustee Charlene Harvey and Michael McCone
Beattie Seidenberg, Montgomery and Anne Woods
Chrissie and Brooks Crawford with National Parks Service Chief of Interpretation Howard Levitt
Chris Isaak and Dr. Jeff Hays
Carole Shorenstein Hays, Charlotte Shultz and Nancy Bechtle
Marina Scannell, Walter Haas, Josh "El Guapo" Prime and his wife, Charlotte Haas Prime
Maura Morey, Linda Gruber and her daughter, Jane Gruber
VIA Magazine Editor Bruce Anderson and his wife, Susan Anderson
Ellanor and Russ Notides, Susan Swig and a friend
Team McCall (from left) Lucas Schoemaker, Patrick McAteer and Josip Martinovic
GGNPC Design Director Bill Prochnow, who created the clever program, and his wife, Hulda Nelson
Tom Kelley, at attention, in his father's military jacket
Trails Forever dinner tent at night