Lake Merced, a large freshwater lake in San Francisco’s southwestern corner, is the heart of a 614-acre park that is popular with boaters, hikers, bicyclists, and birdwatchers. A 4.5-mile paved trail circles the lake’s perimeter; facilities include many picnic areas and a boathouse, fishing pier, and boat launch. The park is bounded by three golf courses, including City-owned Harding Park. Lake Merced is major water, recreational, and natural resource for the City and County of San Francisco and the surrounding area. It is also an important stop for migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway. More than half of the park is managed by the Recreation and Parks Department’s Natural Areas Program, which works to restore and protect habitat for birds and other wildlife, as well as to maintain and improve trails. Originally inhabited by the Ohlone people, the land around Lake Merced was a ranch during the era of Mexican rule. In the 1850s, a famous duel took place near the lake’s shore, between David S. Terry, formerly chief justice of the Supreme Court of California, and the Honorable David C. Broderick, a U.S. senator. Broderick died of his wounds, but Terry was later acquitted; a plaque now marks the location. The lake has supplied water to the City since the late 1860s. The park was established in the 1950s, after the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which manages the City’s water supply and owns the land, turned its management over to the Recreation and Parks Department. The park is bounded by John Muir Drive, Skyline Boulevard, and Lake Merced Boulevard.
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