Living in the second-most densely populated city in the U.S., you can often miss being in touch with nature. More than 150 years ago, Frederick Law Olmsted (the landscape architect of Central Park fame) noted: “It is a scientific fact that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes … particularly if this contemplation occurs in connection with relief from ordinary cares, change of air and change of habits, is favorable to the health and vigor of men.”
Now, more than a century later, as “science” is catching up to Olmsted’s intuition, a growing number of physicians have begun to recognize how parks and green space make for good medicine. Studies have shown as little as a 15-minute stroll through the woods improves mood and reduces stress. Spending time in nature has even been shown to help increase cognition and focus.
On Saturday, Nov. 7, you can get reconnected with nature at the wildest park in The City. Join Walk San Francisco for its monthly members walk with Nature in the City executive director Amber Hasselbring as she leads you on a discovery tour through The City’s second-largest open space, John McLaren Park.
The walk will highlight five of The City’s “Green Connections” routes, each named for a special San Francisco flora, fauna or natural habitat. These routes are just a handful of the 24 intersecting, cross-town paths mapped as part of the 20-year Green Connections plan to create a citywide, 115-mile network of greener, traffic-calmed streets. As the network comes to life through city- and community-led efforts, it will make it easy and more enjoyable to travel to parks, open space and the waterfront by foot (or bike), from wherever you live in San Francisco.
You begin November’s five-mile, three-hour walk at the Reservoir in McLaren Park. There, you’ll hike through the park to travel along five Green Connections, including the Yosemite Creek, which highlights the striking Red-winged Blackbird, the Folsom/Mission Creek supporting a variety of pollinators and the Crosstown Trail for coyotes (a timely topic given the recent sightings around The City). As you traverse McLaren, you’ll explore the Ingleside, which showcases native Coast Live Oak and California Buckeye trees, and the Lake Merced/Candlestick, a critical wildlife corridor for the Western Fence Lizard.
As you enjoy a brisk hike and take in McLaren Park’s beauty and vistas, you will also hear about ways to “green” your own streets, making them environmentally sustainable and more attractive to San Francisco’s unique biodiversity. Amber will share resources for plants and tips to support better urban ecology, as well as highlight current completed sections of the plan, like a segment along The Wiggle.
The goal of the Green Connections network is not only to increase your access to the nature that’s still in The City, but also to help create over a hundred miles of greener spaces, bringing the physical and mental health benefits of nature to your neighborhood streets and sidewalks.
Don’t miss this chance to reconnect with the nature in The City.
Natalie Burdick is membership and volunteer director for WalkSF.
IF YOU GO:
Discovering McLaren Park’s Green Connectors – Pollinators, Oaks, Lizards and More
When: Saturday, Nov. 7, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: McLaren Park Reservoir, 100 John F. Shelley Dr., S.F.
Info: Walk space is limited; $10 suggested donation to Walk SF or Nature in the City; RSVPs required at walksf.org/event/mclaren-parks-green-connectors
To learn more about the Green Connections and how you can get started, visit greenconnections.sfplanning.org.