by Matthew S. Bajko
New signage recognizing a public meadow in San Francisco named after a local gay political pioneer is set to be dedicated in early 2014.
Following the death of campaign adviser and political aide Bill Kraus in 1986 at the age of 38, city officials designated a section of Corona Heights Park after him. Kraus had battled AIDS and contracted meningitis a few weeks prior to his death.
Saturday mornings Kraus would often head to the hilltop open space above the gay Castro district to strategize for his bosses, who included the late gay Supervisor Harvey Milk, his successor, Supervisor Harry Britt, and late Congress members Phillip and Sala Burton.
While a memorial bench with a plaque bearing Kraus's name was installed in the protected green space, there is nothing to alert park users of the fact that the nearby meadow and pathway are named for the Midwest transplant.
As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a May article, an acquaintance who knew Kraus through the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, of which Kraus served as president following Milk's assassination in 1978, sought earlier this year to make Kraus's connection to the park visible to the public.
John Mehring organized a group of volunteers, unofficially dubbed the Friends and Supporters of Bill Kraus, to raise money and petition parks officials, as well as boosters of Corona Heights Park, to sign off on their proposal.
It had been expected that the signage for Kraus would be included in a new kiosk planned for the entrance to the park by the intersection of Museum and Roosevelt ways. This summer the San Francisco Parks Alliance awarded a $2,000 Park Action Grant to the group Friends of Corona Heights Park, which had agreed to include biographical information about Kraus on the kiosk.
But Mehring recently contacted the B.A.R. to announce that the Kraus friends group had decided to go a different route. The signage will now be placed on the backside of the existing trail sign at the park entrance.
"As we envision it, Bill's sign will face east toward the bench that bears his plaque, and the existing park trail sign will face west to greet park visitors who use the main entrance at Roosevelt and Museum," wrote Mehring, adding that the switch was made because "we want to act now; Bill's memorial is long overdue."
According to Mehring, the Kraus group expects to raise enough money privately to pay for the new signage. The cost is roughly $1,500, including materials, supplies and labor, according to the parks department.
"We are using the original graphic designer and sign maker so that everything fits into the site," wrote Mehring.
Elton Pon, a spokesman for the Recreation and Parks Department, told the B.A.R. this week that the city agency's maintenance yard staff is currently producing the new sign, "which will be installed within the next two weeks (before December 1)."
Mehring said he is planning to hold the dedication ceremony on the anniversary of Kraus' death, Saturday, January 11 or Sunday, January 12.