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The original item was published from 11/24/2020 1:23:12 PM to 11/24/2021 12:05:01 AM.

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Posted on: November 24, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Ropes Challenge Course Opens in McLaren Park

McLaren Ropes Course

A video tour can be found here. B-roll can be arranged Nov. 22, 27, 28

SAN FRANCISCO –  Ten San Franciscans stepped out of their comfort zones and into the treetops at McLaren Park today—climbing, balancing and leaping their way through opening day at a new ropes challenge course, a project of Outward Bound California (OBCA) and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. 

Today’s event was the first of four free community days in November for residents of the city’s southeast neighborhoods. The course will provide leadership training, character development and group recreation for youth and adults. Schools and non-profit groups serving students from low-income communities will receive up to 75% scholarship for a day on the course, with students themselves attending free of charge.  Starting in January, one Saturday per month from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. will be reserved for free community days led by highly trained Outward Bound educators. To get on the waiting list for future free community programs or to bring your school group, contact Outward Bound here

Construction began in July on the project, 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. OBCA’s record of excellence for over a decade within Bay Area communities has made them a trusted partner to deliver programming despite the current challenging environment. To prevent the spread of Covid-19, the number of people on the course is restricted to 10 participants and two instructors and OBCA has robust safety guidelines regarding sanitization and social distancing to further mitigate the risk. All county and COVID health guidelines will be followed for all participants and masks are required. 

“Taking risks, fostering trust and overcoming fear in a supportive environment can be life-changing,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “San Franciscans in every neighborhood deserve equal access to empowering outdoor experiences. For a young person, a ropes course can be the first step to becoming a lifelong steward of nature.”  

Bay Area students are experiencing an unprecedented interruption in their education as well as a severe deficit in social-emotional development fueled by the isolating effects of stay-at-home orders, social injustice, and wildfires. Recent studies link outdoor access to improved mental and physical health, particularly in low-income communities affected by systemic racism, trauma, and opportunity gaps. OBCA’s staff are educators, skilled in making programs physically, emotionally, and socially challenging while also creating an environment of safety and inclusion so learning is possible. One recent OBCA alumni said after their course: "It's the education you won't find within the walls of a classroom. The kind of education that prepares you to confidently meet the expected and unexpected challenges of life."

“With the opening of the Challenge Course, OBCA is uniquely positioned to be a beacon of hope and compassion in this needed moment as well as bringing transformational leadership training and safe, outdoor adventure right to students’ backyards,” said Nettie Pardue, Executive Director of OBCA. “We are so honored and excited to serve students in southeastern San Francisco and beyond for decades to come.” 

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 staffing, ongoing maintenance, and scholarships for local students – including Visitacion Valley Middle School and June Jordan School for Equity just down the hill from the course. 

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. 

Elements of the course have been made accessible to students with disabilities and the entire course is tucked into the tree line or landscape whenever possible. It provides solo and team climbing opportunities and focuses on balance, trust, communication, leadership and community building. Each program is highly customized to meet the goals of the group and include an intentional progression of skills and elements to suit participants’ needs. 

●       The Challenge Course: A ten-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 Down Lows: Portable low elements where teams tackle challenges low to the ground to develop confidence, team cohesion, and leadership.

●       Storage: Two 8-feet-by 20-feet storage structures for program and course equipment.

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 (OBCA) is one of 11 regional Outward Bound schools across the country. Nationally recognized for safety and risk-management, OBCA believes that safe outdoor spaces are essential for students' mental and physical health. OBCA opened in San Francisco by serving 400 students in 2008, and has expanded to serve approximately 2,400 youth annually from underrepresented communities, young adults, military veterans, and recent immigrants every year. Since 2008, they have engaged youth across California on transformational courses, empowering them to uncover their strengths, overcome fears, and cultivate leadership qualities: moral courage, compassion, resiliency. Today, an overwhelming majority of their participants report they are more likely to be leaders, help others, accomplish their goals, and believe in their ability to succeed 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 students consistently demonstrate strong growth in measurable outcomes areas of leadership, character, environmental stewardship, and the development of an ethic of service.

●      Program partnerships with public schools and student-serving nonprofits in San Francisco are critical to their model, 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



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