Mimi Klausner remembers the day when a group of Japanese tourists on Bernal Hill approached her for help, looking around in confusion and flashing a picture of the Bernal Heights swing.
Whether the swing was there could never be guaranteed: In the last six years, the swing has disappeared and reappeared every other month. For locals, it is unclear who takes the swing down, and who keeps putting it back up.
“Whoever’s doing it,” Klausner said, pointing to tight knots that fixed the wooden plank to its ropes, “they clearly know what they’re doing.”
The swing, which dangles from a tree at the apex of Bernal Hill, has become the subject of hyper-fixation and mystery, a local attraction beckoning to tourists and locals alike, and its origins are completely unknown.
“If you ever see tourists here, it’s for the swing,” said Barbara, a longtime Bernal Heights resident, walking her small white chihuahua on a recent Tuesday afternoon.
As Barbara and her chihuahua, Rosalita, peeled around the corner of Bernal Hill, she pointed up to a tree whose trunk was largely obscured by a gray, runged power structure.
“The swing was there, last I checked,” she said, “but if it’s missing, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
While locals aren’t entirely sure of the exact date when the swing first emerged, many of them have seen it for years — even stretching back to 2008, according to some in the neighborhood. The swing faces expansive views of the city, a panoramic display of the skyline, bridges and the bay.
Well, here ends the mystery.
“Our staff takes the swing down,” wrote Daniel Montes, a communications manager for the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. “We know it’s a bummer for fans of the swing. We really aren’t trying to be the fun police, just prevent injuries.”
Montes understands that Rec and Parks’ involvement in the swing’s removal may be disappointing to its visitors. “On the plus side, we have a lot of great swings at our more than 225 parks, of which we can guarantee the safety.”
Klausner, for her part, understood that the city may be apprehensive about keeping the swing up. “If somebody fell, it would not be good,” she admitted. “But I think the joy is worth the risk.”
“A lot of the change [in San Francisco] is not always for the better,” she added. “But there are still things that are wonderful. And this swing is one of them.”
Klausner enjoys seeing tourists stopping in her serene, otherwise uneventful neighborhood for the local attraction. She believes that other features of Bernal Heights park are worthy of adoration and exploration, like a pair of great horned owls who live in a nearby tree.
“It’s just adorable to see them,” she explained. “If people come for the swing, they should try to see the owls, too.”
And they do. Near the base, a group of people gathered around a massive tree.
“Why, we’re looking for those owls!” one of them said.
The owls, too, were absent.
“Gone hunting,” one observer guessed.