The Hitchikers’ Guide to Ocean Beach, Attraction #3 The Incredible Shrinking Park

by on December 6, 2010 · 7 comments

in Culture, Environment, History, Hitchikers' Guide to OB, Ocean Beach

1957 Thomas Bros. map of Ocean Beach. Click on the map to see a large version of it.

By Citizen Cane

The Incredible Shrinking Park can still be observed in Ocean Beach at the intersection of Green and Soto Streets. It’s officially known as Collier Park, and consists of approximately 6.7 dedicated acres if you include the Point Loma Native Plant Reserve. That might sound large, but it’s barely a fraction of the original size of the park before it began shrinking.

Travel back in time with the aid of the Fall 1957 Thomas Brothers Map, and you can see the park was bounded by Soto, Green, Valeta, and almost to Wolcott (about two blocks from the present day Stumps Market.) If we make a comparison to some streets that are more familiar in Ocean Beach, then readers should be able to visualize the size of the park a little better. Plunk the park down on the map with one corner at Newport Avenue and Abbott Street, and the length of the park would stretch all the way to Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. The width would go all the way over to the alley between Cape May and Brighton Avenues. That’s 3 long blocks in length, and 3.5 short blocks in width.

There are a number of reasons and justifications that have caused the park to shrink. You can read about some of that unpleasantness here. Take your children to Collier Park, and tell them the sad story of The Incredible Shrinking Park. It’s a lesson worth learning.

Overlay of old Thomas Bros. map on recent Google map

Visitors probably won’t be able to see the park shrink. The shrinkage isn’t linear and gradual. It shrinks in sudden chunks. It’s pretty complex stuff, but a team of scientists at Lucys Bar have estimated that by the year 2023 the Incredible Shrinking Park will have to be renamed as the David Charles Collier Memorial Parking Space. Enjoy it while you can.

Collier Park, then and now.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie December 6, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Thanks, Citizen Cane, for bringing this history forward. Every now and then, it helps to stop and ask, okay, what was it supposed to be like?

Great ol’ Thomas Bros map from ’57. Old biases are reflected in these old maps. Look at what they call the San Diego River – ‘flood control channel’.


Tom Cairns December 6, 2010 at 5:42 pm

If I remember right, D. C. Collier left this land to the children of San Diego, and as it was chopped up by the unwed mother’s home, the junior high, the Soap Box Derby track, that was the reasoning. Of course, the Nimitz had to be put through (which is actually an old earthquake fault from the Rose Canyon Complex). Collier was the guy who pulled off the Pan American Exposition in Balboa Park in 1915. And if you go to the web site of Correia Middle School, in it’s history blurb, it states the school was built in 1957, and never mentions it was originally named for D. C. Collier.


Frank Gormlie December 6, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Tom, thanks for visiting. Where was the Soap Box Derby track? hadn’t heard that one. Indeed, Collier got around. Someone I know is compiling a list of parks named after him. And that’s messed up about Correia not having about Collier.


Tom Cairns December 7, 2010 at 5:21 am

The Soap Box Derby track ran along the west side of the school. It started up where the YMCA is, and ended down at the level of the Little League fields. It was shut down due to the Seventh Day Adventist church having Saturday services, and the derby being on Saturdays, and the conflict between the two.


Citizen Cane December 8, 2010 at 10:59 pm

It would be nice if the school wasn’t named after a glass blower in La Jolla, and another big chunk of the park wasn’t named after that jackwagon Bill Cleator. What bothers me the most is the lack of trees and bushes. For example…do we really need about 150 parking spaces at a school where the students aren’t old enough to drive?


Citizen Cane December 9, 2010 at 11:01 am

There really should be an annual Collier Day or Collier Week in Ocean Beach. Read Richard Amero’s brief but concentrated History of D. C. Collier, and you’ll be impressed with the man.


Luke English November 12, 2011 at 11:08 am

The natural area adjacent to collier park is known as the point loma native plant garden. Because residents of Ob and point loma were unable to take care of it the garden is now managed by the San Diego river park foundation. Thankfully they came to the rescue as its maintenance has largely been ignored by local residents. If you would like to ensure this part of collier park is preserved and taken care of for future geneations it would be great if you could come out to help. There are work party events every first Saturday and third Sunday of the month where volunteers come out to help and support our dwindling open land in person. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks to the action taken by volunteers and the sd river park foundation these conversations are not more grim.


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