Final Plan for Bernal Hill Trail Restoration Unveiled

Above Bernal Heights

Above Bernal Heights

Above Bernal Heights

Wednesday night I attended the last of three planned community meetings on the Bernal Trails Project, along with about twenty neighbors and several representatives from San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks department.

I’ve been to all of the meetings, and I’m impressed by the amount of consensus that’s been achieved, despite the wide range of opinions people brought.

The big news for me was the changes in the concept plan map from what was shown at the last meeting. The maps shown Wednesday night were conceptual, and detailed design development will take place over the summer, with involvement from a professional trail designer.

The new map and slides aren’t online yet, but here are some highlights:

  • A new north-slope trail that was marked as a “Potential Trail Alignment” on the old map, is now included as a full-fledged part of the “Proposed Trail Network.” That would seem to be in direct response to some comments at the last meeting from users of the existing north-slope trails.
  • Some of the “redundancy” in the east-west paths along the saddle is preserved. The previous map had only one proposed trail along the southern high path over Bernal Hill’s two minor peaks. The new one includes the lower northern path as well.
  • The trail by the old house foundations (Nos. 26 and 39 Prentiss Street, on the southeast part of the hill) is now included in the “Proposed Trail Network.” In the previous map, it looked abandoned.

  • The Esmeralda stairs will probably need the most work, since erosion is severe there. Rustic stairs (examples shown above) would attempt to use native materials (like our beloved chert). Billy Goat Hill, Corona Heights, and Grandview already have this kind of rustic stairs or rustic fences.
  • Post and rail fencing is planned for the base of the slope, on the northeast side next to the road. The road cut is the source of most of the erosion problems, but it’s exacerbated when dogs chase balls thrown up the slope. First it’s dogs, then children, then a kid gets stuck and an adult has to go after them. Erosion gullies are undermining the cliffside trails above, which is one of the reasons those trails don’t appear on the new map of proposed trails.
  • That doesn’t mean those trails will be closed off, necessarily. The near-vertical gullies need to be blocked, with a fence at the bottom, and some kind of erosion control materials that will hopefully give way to new plant growth. But the at-grade trail at the top isn’t hurting much. The new north trail will be higher up the hill, sustainably above the steep slopes of the road cut. Hikers who love the lower trail are likely to be able to reach it without any obstacles (like fencing) getting in their way. It just won’t be improved going forward, and erosion will take it in the long run.
  • At the top of the tower access road, some of the guard rail will be removed and steps will be added; there’s currently quite a drop off from the road due to erosion. More benches may be added there, as well. (There’s currently one. There might be a donation program to sponsor more.)

Other questions were answered:

  • There’s no plan to widen trails. It’s more about aligining them to have a sustainable relationship to the topology, grading for erosion and for safe and comfortable walking surface. A few parks are getting wider ADA-compliant wheelchair-accessible trails, but not Bernal.
  • Rec & Parks met with San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency to discuss questions neighbors had about pedestrian access and safety in a previous meeting. MTA’s Livable Streets project does studies on traffic. They have no money for Bernal now, and it’s typically a one-year process once they get funding, but Rec & Parks will work with MTA to try to align trail entrances (especially the “undefined” east entrances at the blind hairpin turn on Bernal Heights Boulevard) to their plans. In general, there’s “lots you can do with paint,” like constricting lanes and making 90-degree turns. For the north entrance at Folsom, they ruled out a stop sign (no cross-traffic) and discouraged flashing lights (maintenance nightmare).

Sometime in May (TBD), the concept plan will be taken to a public meeting of Rec & Parks. Assuming it’s approved, detailed design development will be done between May and October. The bidding process for contractors will run from November through February 2013, so construction can be done next March through October.

Keep track of the project on Rec and Park’s Bernal Hill Urban Trails Project website.

PHOTOS: Aerial photos, Telstar Logistics. Graphics, SF Park and Rec

5 thoughts on “Final Plan for Bernal Hill Trail Restoration Unveiled

  1. Thanks for your detailed note and news. I had signed up to be notified about that last meeting, but was not, please let us know how we can be on future email lists or the best way to stay in the loop.

    • I signed up too (email address on the sign-in sheet), and didn’t get any notification from Rec & Parks before this meeting. I probably would have missed it if Todd hadn’t reminded me on Wednesday afternoon!

      I did get an email yesterday from Meghan Tiernan, the Rec & Parks project manager, saying that the notes and slides from this meeting should be posted by Monday. If you didn’t get that (it was sent at 3:55 pm), email Meghan and she’ll put you on the list. Her address is on the project page.

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