National AIDS Memorial Grove
The National AIDS Memorial Grove was conceived in 1988 by a small group of San Francisco residents whose community had been devastated by the AIDS epidemic. They envisioned a serene place where people would come alone or in groups to hold memorial services, comfort one another, and remember the lives of precious loved ones. It was to be an “AIDS Memorial,” a healing space dedicated to all lives touched by AIDS. The group selected as the site the de Laveaga Dell in world-renowned Golden Gate Park. The group recruited a team of prominent landscape architects and designers who volunteered countless hours to create a landscape plan that would be fitting as a timeless living memorial. The Grove’s board of directors obtained a 99-year renewable lease with the City of San Francisco to create and maintain the Grove, and site renovation began in September 1991.
In October 1996, a historic milestone was reached when Congress and the President of the United States approved the National AIDS Memorial Grove Act. This official designation as the National AIDS Memorial Grove, a status comparable to that of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the 9/11 Memorial, and the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, proclaimed to the world that there was now a dedicated space in the national public landscape where anyone touched by AIDS could grieve openly without being stigmatized, find comfort among others whose lives have been affected by AIDS, and experience the feelings of renewal and hope inherent in nature.
The Grove, by its very existence, articulates the scale and scope of the reality of the ongoing AIDS pandemic, and maintains visibility of it in the national consciousness. Further, by its very nature, it transforms stigma into dignity, grief into resolution, and death into life, reminding future generations that through compassion, one finds a potent antidote to misery and prejudice. Born in the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic, countless volunteers have donated 150,000 hours of labor to transform and maintain this once neglected and derelict landscape into a sacred, serene and magnificent place, reclaiming lost park land, and transforming lives in the process.
Twenty-five years after its founding, the Grove continues to serve the people of San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, and visitors from across the nation and around the globe. By serving as a point of commemoration and reflection, it ensures that the story of AIDS will not be forgotten by future generations.