SAN FRANCISCO – Construction on a high ropes challenge course teaching youth leadership and character development in John McLaren Park kicked off today, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department announced.
A project of SF Rec and Parks and Outward Bound California (OBCA), the ropes course will be located at the park’s Wilde Overlook Tower area near the intersection of Mansell Street and Visitacion Avenue. The course is estimated to be completed by the end of October. Health officials will decide when the public can safely access the programming.
The park will remain open to visitors during construction.
When complete, the challenge course will be the sole ropes course on San Francisco city property. A second course is located on federal land in the Fort Miley Military Reservation, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
The course will serve both public and educational community group recreation for youth and adults. Schools and non-profit groups serving students from low income communities and under-resourced public schools will receive up to 75 percent scholarship for a day on the course, with students themselves attending free of charge. One Saturday per month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. will be reserved for free community programs led by highly trained Outward Bound educators. Participants will sign up online to reserve their spots.
“We are thrilled to partner with Outward Bound to bring this unique opportunity for adventure, youth development and recreation to our southeastern communities,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “Young people in every neighborhood deserve access to high quality nature play that builds their confidence and improves their wellbeing.”
Recent studies link outdoor access to improved mental and physical health, particularly in low income communities affected by systemic racism, trauma, and opportunity gaps.
When Outward Bound programs can safely operate again, instructors plan to focus on combatting the isolation, nature deficit and anxiety students experienced while sheltering-in-place as well as building confidence and reinforcing the social-emotional skills that empower students to be leaders in their schools and communities.
“The day is finally here,” said OBCA Executive Director Nettie Pardue of today’s groundbreaking. “After years of planning and preparing, we are thrilled at the opportunity to bring more life-changing outdoor experiences to local schools and youth in the southern part of the city, where the majority of the students we serve live. As students and schools face uncertainty, it is our hope that the positive social and emotional learning experiences in a safe, outdoor setting we can offer through this course will be a solution."
The project is at no cost to the City. OBCA has raised funds to build the course that will serve as a gateway and anchor of outdoor activity for San Francisco’s second largest park. Fundraising continues for staff training, ongoing maintenance, and scholarships for local students – including Visitacion Valley Middle School just down the hill from the course.
“We have partnered with OBCA for many years and have seen the transformation their programs enable for our students and school community,” wrote Visitacion Valley Middle School Principal, Joe Truss. “Participants discover within themselves and among their peers, previously unknown reserves of resilience and compassion for their own limitations and that of their peers. Our students need these opportunities to collaborate, trust each other, build relationships with peers and develop as leaders.”
The project aligns with the 2018 McLaren Park Vision Plan, which cites recreational improvements focusing on play and aerial adventure as the top desire of park neighbors and advocates. The Recreation and Park Commission approved the plan to build the course in December of 2018.
The course will have three separate structures, tucked into the tree line or landscape whenever possible. The course provides solo and team climbing opportunities and focuses on balance, trust, communication, leadership and teamwork.
● The Challenge Course: A 10-pole traditional high ropes course with eight aerial challenges
● The Discovery Tower: A two-pole, four-person aerial adventure
● The Leap: A three-pole solo challenge that asks participants to take a leap
The course will also include removable low elements that can be installed on landscape posts for unharnessed challenges. Two 8-feet-by 20-feet structures will store equipment.
Once completed, the course could accommodate small, facilitator-led groups on adventures that last from several hours to all day.
About McLaren Park:
At over 300 acres, John McLaren Park is the second largest park in the City. The park was created in 1927 and currently includes playgrounds, picnic areas, game courts, the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, a golf course, McNab Lake and the Coffman Pool. It provides more than 7 miles of trails. The Wilde Overlook Area was opened to the public in 1981. Previously the Wilde Reservoir, the area was used to store tap water for San Francisco. After its operation ceased, the old walls of the reservoir were retained as a viewing platform and a 35-foot tower was constructed as its center.
About Outward Bound California:
Outward Bound California is a nonprofit educational organization and outdoor education offering programs that challenge students to develop leadership, character, and a desire to serve in their schools, communities and showcase their inner strength in their careers. Outward Bound California is deeply committed to opening up access for students and schools and facilitating effective community partnerships, which is why:
● Two in three Outward Bound California students receive scholarships to participate in their programs.
● Outward Bound California provides nearly 14,000 days of outdoor leadership education to students across the Bay Area and California annually.
● Outward Bound California students consistently demonstrate strong growth in measurable outcomes areas of leadership, character, environmental stewardship, and the development of an ethic of service.
● More than 16,000 students have taken part in Outward Bound California programs in partnership with public schools and student-serving nonprofits in San Francisco, including: San Francisco International High School, Abraham Lincoln High School, Mission High School, Visitacion Valley Middle School, Friends of the Urban Forest, Larkin Street Youth Services, and over 50 others.
Learn more at www.obca.org.
Attached rendering courtesy of OBCA