San Francisco Magazine Recognizes Mount Sutro Stewards

Craig Dawson on a Mount Sutro trail
Craig Dawson, founder of the Mount Sutro Stewards, credits UCSF and volunteers for helping to restore the open space reserve atop Parnassus Heights.

San Francisco magazine’s editors and readers were asked to pick the people, places and things that make the Bay Area the best place to live, work and play.

The votes were tallied and the Mount Sutro Stewards were honored among the top picks in the magazine’s July issue.

“Unbeknownst to many locals, right next to the UCSF campus lies one of the wildest areas remaining in the city, the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve,” the magazine reports. “These 63 acres (including one trail dating back to the 1880s) require a lot of upkeep, which is where the Mount Sutro Stewards come in. Volunteers can go high- or low-impact, from weeding in the Rotary Native Plant Garden to swinging picks and building stone drywalls. The best part, however, may be finishing up a hard day’s work with free pizza, home-brewed beer, and new friends.”

The Mount Sutro Stewards meet on the first Saturday of the month at 9 a.m. at the Woods Building parking lot, 100 Medical Center Way, San Francisco, for a half-day of volunteer work. The next Mount Sutro Volunteer Day is Saturday, July 4th. For more information, call 415/514-2651 or email.

“Our work in the UCSF Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve wouldn’t be possible without the help of UCSF and volunteers,” says Craig Dawson, a member of the UCSF Community Advisory Group and founder of the Mount Sutro Stewards. “Thus, this award is an acknowledgment of your support and contribution.”

Coincidentally, Dawson has been named Volunteer of the Month by the Neighborhood Parks Council, San Francisco’s park advocacy authority, representing more than 120 park groups, 67 strategic partner organizations and 4,000 park volunteers. Read the full story on the Neighborhood Parks Council website.

Asked by the council what inspired him to volunteer, Dawson said, “Mount Sutro is a very special place, removed from the city that surrounds it. The area was for decades an underutilized open space and I’ve always felt that with better access we could slowly begin to address some of the management issues found within the area. I wanted to show what a grassroots stewardship program was capable of and how, through the restoration work and improved access, we could engage the community in the care and appreciation of this resource.”

In September 2001, UCSF published the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve Management Plan to serve as a guide to the long-term restoration and management of the 61-acre open space reserve above Parnassus Heights. As a first step in the implementation of the management plan, UCSF has planted the summit clearing at the top of the reserve with coastal scrub native plants funded by the Rotary Club of San Francisco. Rotary Meadow, as it was renamed, has been planted in two phases.

Today, the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve on UCSF’s Parnassus campus is an ecological oasis in the heart of San Francisco’s urban environment. For several years, UCSF, in partnership with community volunteers, has worked to rejuvenate trails and restore the native habitat.

San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro began planting the forest of blue gum eucalyptus trees on what was then called Mount Parnassus in 1886 in celebration of San Francisco’s first Arbor Day. Ongoing restoration work is needed as the dead and dying eucalyptus trees increasingly become safety hazards and ivy, blackberry and other invasive species take over the reserve.

Anyone interested in volunteering to help maintain the meadow or trails in the reserve should contact Damon Lew, UCSF Community and Governmental Relations, at 415/514-2651.

Photo by Sarah Paris