Ropes Course to Raise Profile of McLaren Park, Expand Local Access to Leadership Programming

SAN FRANCISCO –  The San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission today approved a plan to transform an under-used part of John McLaren Park into a high ropes challenge focusing on leadership and character development for local youth and others.

A project of SF Rec and Parks and Outward Bound California (OBCA), the ropes course is estimated to be completed by May 2019. The course will serve both public and educational community group recreation for youth and adults. Schools and non-profit groups that serve low-income students will receive up to 75 percent scholarship for a day on the course, with students themselves typically 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. Studies show outdoor adventure programs provide mental health benefits for teens  and young adults.

It will be the sole ropes course on San Francisco property. A second course is located on federal land in the Fort Miley Military Reservation, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

“McLaren Park has been an important neighborhood space for both children and adults for generations,” said Mayor London Breed. “We are always looking for new ways for our public spaces to better serve our community and the new ropes course will be a welcome addition.”

After working with community members, including the McLaren Park Collaborative group, Rec and Parks and OBCA settled on Wilde Overlook Tower area near the intersection of Mansell Street and Visitacion Avenue as the new ropes course location.  OBCA has raised the funds to build the course in partnership with the city 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.

“Having a ropes course in McLaren Park is incredibly important to students in San Francisco’s southern neighborhoods,” said San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews.  “It means equitable access to all of the benefits that come from meaningful outdoor experiences and programming.”

The plan 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 southwestern corner of McLaren Park has long deserved a revitalization,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of San Francisco Recreation and Parks. “Outward Bound California has proposed a dynamic ropes course that promises to bring new life to the area while honing leadership skills for San Franciscans.”

The project ensures equitable access to all of the benefits that come from meaningful outdoor experiences and programming, providing students from the neighborhood and beyond an opportunity to become stewards of nature.

“Outward Bound California has deep roots in San Francisco,” said Nettie Pardue, Executive Director of OBCA. “The majority of the SF students we serve live in District 10 and 11 so we are thrilled at the opportunity to bring more accessible, life-changing outdoor experiences to local schools and youth in the southern part of the city.”

The course will have five 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 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 that can be installed on landscape posts to unharnessed challenges.
  •       Storage: Two 8-feet-by 20-feet storage structures for program and course equipment.

Once completed, the course could accommodate small to large groups led by facilitators that last from one hour 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 expedition school offering educational 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 low-income students 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 12,000 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 12,000 students have taken part in Outward Bound California programs in partnership with public schools and student-serving nonprofits, including: San Francisco International High School, Abraham Lincoln High School, Visitacion Valley Middle School; Leadership Public Schools, Urban Promise Academy and Bret Harte Middle School; Richmond’s Yes Nature to Neighborhoods, Friends of the Urban Forest, Jewish Big Brothers and Sisters of LA, Summer Search, Larkin Street Youth Services, and dozens upon dozens of others.

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