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Posted on: October 7, 2021

McLaren Park Ropes Course Officially Opens With Treetop Thrills


Contact: SF Recreation and Parks – Tamara Aparton,

              Outward Bound California – Emma Rapp, (540) 270-5839

SAN FRANCISCO –  After nearly a year of anticipation, the McLaren Park Ropes Course was in full swing today, celebrating its full opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and Outward Bound California (OBCA) announced. 

Following the ribbon-cutting, students from Visitacion Valley Middle School then took to the trees, climbing, balancing and leaping their way through the course. The community building and character development program, which had a soft opening in November 2020, is now able to increase capacity to serve students, schools and the community. Approximately 650 have experienced the course this year. That number is expected to grow to 2,000 students in 2022 and 3,000 in 2023. 

While only the individual high course was open during the soft opening due to COVID-19, Outward Bound expects to open the full course, including low and high team elements early in 2022 where multiple participants work together to complete the obstacle, relying on communication and trust. 

The McLaren Park site is the sole ropes course on San Francisco city property. A second course is located on federal land in the Fort Miley Military Reservation, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Schools and non-profit groups serving students from low-income communities receive up to 75% scholarship for a day on the course, with students themselves attending free of charge. OBCA also offers free community days the last Saturday of each month led by highly trained educators.  The course is currently booked through the end of the fall season and is now booking for spring programs to start in February. For more information, contact Outward Bound here.

“Equitable access to nature and outdoor adventure is critical. The ropes challenge course, with its expanded ability to serve, is an invaluable resource to neighborhood youth and their communities,” said Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, who represents District 10. 

 The project 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 ropes course is a great opportunity for fun, challenging play in McLaren Park. But it’s also more than that--it’s an education that goes beyond the classroom walls, creating tomorrow’s leaders and stewards,” said District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen. 

“We are overjoyed to finally welcome our community to this course that has been years in the making,” said Outward Bound California Executive Director Nettie Pardue. “Piloting courses in a pandemic was not easy but we were proud to offer in person, impactful programming centered in resilience, compassion and belonging for local youth. I am grateful to community members, staff, students, school and nonprofit partners, OBCA board, and state and local officials who made this possible."

 “The pandemic made clear the benefits of outdoor recreation, especially for youth,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “Being in nature, as well as gaining confidence and building trust, boosts our physical health and mental wellbeing. I’m thrilled that more people will have access to this wonderful program.” 

"I'm so glad that Outward Bound decided to build this course in our neighborhood,” said Norma Hernandez, vice principal at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School in the Bayview neighborhood.  “As an alumni of the program, I know how transformational the experience can be for our youth. Students need access to powerful experiences in nature more than ever to heal and build perseverance in these times." 

Elements of the course have been made accessible to students with disabilities and the entire course is tucked into the tree line or landscape whenever possible. It provides solo and team climbing opportunities and focuses on balance, trust, communication, leadership and community building. Each program is highly customized to meet the goals of the group and include an intentional progression of skills and elements to suit participants’ needs and comfort levels.

●       The Challenge Course: A ten-pole traditional high ropes course with eight aerial challenges

●       The Discovery Tower: A two-pole, four-person aerial adventure focused on teamwork

●       The Leap: A three-pole solo challenge that asks participants to take a leap and stretch their comfort zones

●       The Lows: Portable low elements where teams tackle challenges low to the ground to develop confidence, team cohesion, and leadership.


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 (OBCA) is one of 11 regional Outward Bound schools across the country. Nationally recognized for safety and risk-management, OBCA believes that safe outdoor spaces are essential for students' mental and physical health. OBCA opened in San Francisco by serving 400 students in 2008, and has expanded to serve approximately 2,400 youth annually from underrepresented communities, young adults, military veterans, and recent immigrants every year. Since 2008, they have engaged youth across California on transformational courses, empowering them to uncover their strengths, overcome fears, and cultivate leadership qualities: moral courage, compassion, resiliency. Today, an overwhelming majority of their participants report they are more likely to be leaders, help others, accomplish their goals, and believe in their ability to succeed Outward Bound California is deeply committed to opening up access for students and schools and facilitating effective community partnerships, which is why:

●       Two in three Outward Bound California students receive scholarships to participate in their programs. The programs are supported by the generosity of our community, government and foundation grants, and fee-for service clients.

●       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.

●      Program partnerships with over 40 public schools and student-serving nonprofits in San Francisco are critical to their model, including: Boys and Girls Club of Visitacion Valley, Literacy for Environmental Justice, Real Options for City Kids, City Youth Now, AIM High, Covenant House, Friends of the Urban Forest, YMCA of Bayview, Enterprise for Youth, Community Grows, Downtown High School, and Larkin Street Youth Services.

Learn more at



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