Push to mend McLaren begins

Thirteen open spaces are receiving makeovers from a neighborhood parks bond, but The City’s second-largest park — known for its seclusion and as a spot where bodies are dumped — is still hurting for cash.

The 318 acres of John McLaren Park in the Excelsior district were once a ranch, in the 18th century. Now, hikers can wend through trails to find two park lakes,

Louis Sutter and Herz playgrounds, tennis courts, an amphitheater, trails, a picnic and parking area, community gardens, and irrigation systems — but it’s not that easy.

Some trails are visible only because they have eroded, while spots where trails should exist have essentially vanished due to poor maintenance and excessive plant growth.

“People tend to just walk right through populations of sensitive plant species or other areas,” said Cathy Moyer, executive director of nonprofit Volunteers California, which organized a volunteer weekend to carve paths in the park in August. “By actually putting in planned trails, you can avoid a lot of negatives.”

And the cryptic paths have made it even more attractive for criminals to hide bodies — at least five since 2004.

Recreation and Park Department planner Karen Mauney-Brodek said there are efforts to get more visitors to different parts of the park.

“Sometimes it’s about activating parts of the park. There are things we can do to get more foot traffic in certain areas,” Mauney-Brodek said.

But when it came time for the department to decide which parks would benefit from a $185 million parks bond approved by voters in 2008, locations that needed retrofitting in case a big earthquake hit received priority.

Thirteen of the parks — some getting complete makeovers and others just the bare essentials — received between $658,000 and about
$20 million.

Now, Rec and Park is holding community meetings to hear what areas need the most attention and how it can receive grant money.

“It’s an incredibly important and very large park that provides for lots of different needs for a lot of people,” Mauney-Brodek said. “If you saw our trails, saying they need work is a real understatement.”

The next community meeting is March 23 in the Crocker Amazon Playground clubhouse.


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