SF's first city-run high ropes course slated for John McLaren Park

San Francisco is getting its first city-run ropes challenge course, the Recreation and Park Department announced this week. 

The plan, which will transform parts of John McLaren Park in Visitacion Valley, was approved by the Recreation and Park Commission in partnership with local nonprofit Outward Bound California, and is expected to be completed in May 2019. The new course comes as part of the 2018 McLaren Park Vision Plan, which aims to make improvements to recreational space focusing on play and "aerial adventure." 

"McLaren Park has been an important neighborhood space for both children and adults for generations," said Mayor London Breed in a statement. "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."

Image: Rec & Park

The course will be located in the Wilde Overlook Tower area near Mansell Street and Visitacion Avenue. Open to the public and available for group educational activities, this will be the only ropes course located on city property, although there's another course on federal land at Fort Miley Military Reservation as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. 

In total, five separate structures will be constructed and "tucked into the tree line or landscape whenever possible," according to the department.

Four of the structures will feature solo and team challenges focused on balance, trust, communication, leadership and teamwork. The fifth structure will be slated for storage facilities. 

The "Challenge Course" structure will have a ten-pole course with eight aerial challenges, and the "Discovery Tower" will be a two-pole, four-person aerial challenge. "The Leap" will encourage participants "to take a leap" in a three-pole solo challenge, and "The Down Lows" will incorporate portable challenges that can be installed on landscape posts. 

Trees in the area of the proposed ropes course of McLaren Park. | Photo: Google Maps

"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 Vincent Matthews in a statement. 

Schools and nonprofit groups serving low-income students will receive scholarships for up to 75 percent of costs incurred for a day pass. And on one Saturday each month, Outward Bound educators will have the course reserved free of charge for use by local community programs. 

Funds have already been raised by Outward Bound California to build the ropes course in partnership with the city, while fundraising efforts will continue to provide for staff training and ongoing maintenance, as well as for scholarships for local students, such as children from the nearby Visitacion Valley Middle School.

“The southwestern corner of McLaren Park has long deserved a revitalization,” said Rec and Park general manager Phil Ginsburg. "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." 

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