SF Urban Riders And Laguna Honda Open Up Long-Forgotten Trails

SF Urban Rider founder Dan Schneider visits the trail his group hopes to restore. (Photos: Cheryl Guerrero/Hoodline)
By Cheryl Guerrero - Published on December 11, 2016.

Laguna Honda Hospital recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, but many in San Francisco have probably never visited its campus. A new partnership between the facility and SF Urban Riders (SFUR) hopes to change that.

The 62-acre campus across from Forest Hill Station is a mix of hospital buildings and wooded areas that have become the focus of a new project that hopes to restore a historic and long-forgotten trail system.

A historic map depicts the trail as a dotted line around the perimeter of the campus. (Courtesy  SF Urban Riders)

The defunct trail first aroused the interest of Nick Birth, a water resources engineer and member of SFUR.

“There’s a whole canyon that’s all forested,” Birth said, “and it’s got … a perennial flowing water creek, which is pretty rare in San Francisco.”

Birth and a few friends attempted to clear the path to find the old trail, but they were fighting overgrowth, refuse, and rubble from the old hospital’s foundation.

That's when SFUR became involved.  

Founded in 2008, SFUR is a group that advocates for a citywide network of trails for biking; they're also working to open up trails to the wider community.

“The trail system would be multi-use,” explained SFUR founder Dan Schneider, “and provide hiking, biking, and nature opportunities.”

A portion of the trail as it looks today.

Laguna Honda Hospital also expressed interest in restoring the trails.

After connecting with the community to address neighborhood questions and concerns, and to hear suggestions about the proposed project, SFUR and the hospital officially partnered up.

“Our partnership allows us to establish a relationship and outreach capability to [a] uniquely different population, but with a common goal,” said Quoc A. Nguyen, assistant hospital administrator for Laguna Honda.

“[We] had a shared interest in enhancing the multi-use trail in order to make it more usable for wellness activities such as walking, hiking, running and even biking for more adventurous riders.”

Map showing how the Laguna Honda Trail (#4) would connect to a larger system of trails in the city.

Schneider said Laguna Honda Hospital and its executive administrator Mivic Hirose have been very supportive.

“She has been incredible in allowing us to move forward and to work with us, even reach[ing] out to the community as well [through] newsletters.”

Last summer, with Laguna Honda’s support, SFUR applied for and received $22,000 through the San Francisco Community Challenge Grant Program. In addition, they were also awarded a $5,000 grant from REI to purchase tools.

The grants, Schneider said, will “help bring on the resources we need to make this project happen.”

Section of the trail that has earned the moniker "bedpan alley".

There will be some rough work ahead.

One part of the trail -- where fencing, rubble, bottles and even old hospital remnants were dumped -- is now “lovingly called bedpan alley," said Schneider.

“Once you get people involved and you get people starting to use the trail,” Schneider said, “then you get more volunteers.”

Despite the current condition, Schneider said that parts of the trail are operational and that conditions will improve over time as more and more of the trail is opened up. He and his team plan to tackle one section of the trail at a time.

“This area has this incredibly deep history that most of us just drive through and don’t really think about.”

On the second Saturday of each month, SFUR volunteers plan to gather to work on the trail's restoration. If you're interested in participating in the future, check out the group's Facebook page.

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