Understanding, promoting, protecting
the wild and serene places of San Francisco's
John McLaren Park

April 2017 Trails Meeting

Thanks to everyone showing up at Saturday's Recreation and Parks Department (RPD) Trails meeting. A lot of good ideas were shared and a strong voice was heard to keep McLaren Park wild. RPD promises to post their most recent proposed trail envisioning map online soon and when they do we will pass the word.

However, the commercial horse issue was not part of RPD's planned discussion. Instead we were encouraged to fill out the RPD opinion form (click on the link, then the Feedback tab) on their website. Many neighbors brought up the horse issues anyway.

Commercial Horseback Riding in
McLaren Park

As you may have seen, pack horses are now riding the trails of McLaren Park. SFRPD is bringing a horseback riding concession to McLaren Park and Golden Gate park for a two month trial period which began Monday April 3rd. If the trial is deemed successful, it would lead to a permanent horse concession that would bring dozens of commercial horse trips to McLaren’s trails every week of the year. This decision was made without any public meetings or community input.

Slideshow: Click on picture to enlarge.
Click the play button.
Move the cursor out of the window.
Click again to shrink.
  • SFRPD put up signs announcing horses were coming in early April.
  • Damage began within days of horses using the trails.
  • Winter rains create perfect conditions for severe mud damage.
  • Horse droppings are appearing all over the park...
  • ...including heavily trafficked picnic areas.
  • Manure is all over the park.
  • Park lovers are sending their own messages.
  • What is the future for McLaren's beloved trails?

The plan has support from some community members who see horses  as a fun way to get outdoors. It is opposed by many other community members who are concerned about trail degradation, high potential for conflicts, animal welfare and excessive horse manure on the trails. This issue has generated heated debates between friends and neighbors in the McLaren Park community.

Serious concerns include:

  1. Erosion: A well trodden horse route can riddle the soil with deep indentations and turn trails into a dusty, sandy mess in the dry season and muddy puddles and rivulets in the wet season. All these changes make these trails difficult and unpleasant to walk or run on. After just two weeks of the trial, this is already happening. With three daily outings using up to 10 horses each time, it won't take long for the destruction to become permanent.  
  2. Conflicts between horses and other trail users: McLaren’s narrow trails are popular with all types of people: families, people walking their dogs, older hikers, and nature and educational groups. Conflicts between horses and these users doesn't happen often but when it does, the consequences can be severe.
  3. Horse manure on the trails: Two weeks into the trial horse manure is already being left for many days on pathways throughout the park despite RPD’s promise to police the trails after every ride.
  4. Animal welfare: The horses' living quarters are cramped to say the least.  Ten or more horses are sharing a small paddock that once housed only four horses for the SPFD's mounted patrol. There is no room in the park for them to graze, and they are being forced to share narrow trails, which can be as uncomfortable for them as it is for other park users.

What Can You Do?

If you have concerns about the horse plan or if you are concerned about the lack of public process for this significant change in park usage, please contact the city and park officials listed below and let them know.

Here are the three most important things you can do:

  1. If you make only one phone call, make it to Sarah He, who is tracking feedback from the community.
  2. Voice your opinion on RPD’s online Feedback form mentioned above. You can find it here (click on the Feedback tab on the lower half of the page).
  3. Write a short letter to the RPD Commission and cc all the persons below. Contact information follows.

Recreation and Park Commission (recpark.commission@sfgov.org, 415-831-2750)

Phil Ginsburg, SFRPD General Manager (Phil.Ginsburg@sfgov.org, 415-831-2700)
Lisa Wayne, SFRPD Natural Areas Manager (lisa.wayne@sfgov.org, 415-831-6326)
Sarah He, SFRPD Property Manager (sarah.he@sfgov.org, 415-831-2783)
Hillary Ronen, District 9 Supervisor (Hillary.Ronen@sfgov.org, 415-554-5144)
Natalie Gee, Aide to Hillary Ronen (Natalie.Gee@sfgov.org, 415-554-5144)
Ahsha Safai, District 11 Supervisor (ahsha.safai@sfgov.org 415-756-8103)
Malia Cohen, District 10 Supervisor (malia.cohen@sfgov.org, 415-554-7670)

Coyotes in the Park: Spring Means New Pups

It's Spring, and new Coyote pups will be arriving over the next few months, possibly including McLaren Park. That means its more important than ever that everyone be aware of their presence and act appropriately. Coyotes, humans and dogs can all coexist if we follow some simple rules:, listed below.

City coyotes are generally not a threat to humans. Timid by nature, they have adapted to the urban environment and are able to find plenty of food.

(Click image to download a chart on coexisting with coyotes. To download a more detailed brochure, click here.)

If you see a coyote:

  • Do not approach it. Back away calmly.
  • Do not offer it food.
  • Important: control your dog! Coyotes and dogs do not mix and your dog will lose a fight. Smaller dogs can even be killed. Keep your dog on leash in areas where coyotes have been sighted.
  • If a coyote approaches you, make yourself large, shout, if necessary throw something (not food!) at or behind the coyote, and move away slowly towards a more human-populated area.

Many organizations have formed to help humans, dogs and coyotes get along. CoyoteCoexistence.com offers info and more on coyotes living around humans. Click on the image at left to watch their acclaimed video, Coyotes As Neighbors.

Back To Top