The Susan G. Sheridan Memorial Garden Foundation was born out of tragedy. In February, 2007, long-time Novato resident passed away after a hard fight with cancer. Susan led an extraordinary life and her youngest son, Founder and Executive Director, Radz Zalewski, knew that a great life lived deserved to be remembered. Radz took many walks with his Mom through an area of the decommissioned Hamilton Air Force Base that, had not been developed or protected. Radz decided this was the right place to build a public garden park in his Mom's memory; if he only knew what he was getting into.

As it turns out, the area that Radz and his Mom walked through surrounds what is known as "Ammo Hill." Ammo Hill is perhaps one of the most unique and environmentally important areas in all of the North Bay. 

After serving as an important part of America’s coastal defense during the postwar period, Hamilton Air Force Base was finally decommissioned in 1974. Since decommission, much of the land and the original Spanish Eclectic style buildings from the 1930s were returned to Novato and Marin County control. Today, Hamilton Air Force Base serves as a major residential and commercial hub for southern Novato. As the base continues to re-identify itself, the importance of preserving its history is paramount. The original hangars have been renovated as office buildings and the original base headquarters now serves as the center of the Hamilton community. For every place in Hamilton that has been saved, there are several others that have been neglected. The original Hamilton Amphitheater, Officer’s Club, and Theater sit in a perpetual state of disrepair, overlooked by the original plan for the base’s rehabilitation. 

Ammo Hill, the original housing for all munitions for Hamilton Air Force base, sits at the far north end of the base. Just to the east of this site, where the old runways once landed B-17 Flying Fortresses, the California State Coastal Conservancy in association with the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture is attempting one the largest wetland restoration project ever seen on the West Coast. Only the project to protect Florida’s Everglades trumps the scale of what is going on just on the other side of the wall from Ammo Hill.

Although it is not protected, the Ammo Hill area includes over 50 acres of wetlands that serve as habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species like the California Clapper Rail. Two major streams flow through the area, and one of them serves as a primary spawning route for the threatened Chinook Salmon. The site is less than 2000 ft from the proposed South Novato SMART Train Station and is located next to one of the highest ranked "gaps" needing to be filled for the San Francisco Bay Trail Project. Combine all this with the fact that Ducks Unlimited called the San Francisco Bay Area's wetlands "one of five highest habitat priorities in North America," and you begin to get a sense of the importance of the place.

What began as a small memorial garden project has become a dedicated grassroots effort to save over 150 acres of precious wetland and riparian habitat and create artistic, educational, and recreational opportunities for all. It's amazing how one great life can inspire others isn't it?