A segment of the Fifield-Cahill Trail on the Peninsula Watershed
San Francisco, CA—The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and its nonprofit conservation partners are celebrating 15 years of education and public access to the Bay Area Ridge Trail on the agency’s Peninsula Watershed land.
Opened in 2003, the 10-mile Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail is the SFPUC-managed component of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, a regional network of trails that will stretch for more than 500 miles and encircle the entire Bay when completed. Excursions on the Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail are led by Trail Leader Volunteers— trained conservation leaders who lead excursions on foot, mountain bike, or horseback three days a week.
“The SFPUC takes our environmental stewardship responsibilities seriously, and we are proud to share this treasured natural resource with the community in a responsible manner,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. “For the past 15 years, we have managed the Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail in a way that provides public access while also protecting the ecosystem and our local water supply, and creating education opportunities for trail users to learn about the watershed.”
To date, 315 Trail Leader Volunteers have lead nearly 2,000 trips on the watershed, with more than 20,000 users benefitting from the program. The SFPUC carefully monitors trail use by the public to ensure that there are no significant impacts to the fragile ecosystem.
“The Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail is the southern end of an 80-mile continuous stretch – our longest to-date—starting in northern Marin and reaching across San Francisco and all the way to Highway 92,” said Janet McBride, Executive Director of the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council. “We’re proud that so many of SFPUC’s trail leader volunteers are Ridge Trail Council members, and gratified that so many people have been able to experience this incredible trail.”
Since the late 1800s, more than 23,000 acres of land on the Peninsula have been protected to support local water supply, which includes the Pilarcitos, San Andreas and Crystal Springs reservoirs.
First purchased and managed by the Spring Valley Water Company—the preceding privately-owned utility to the SFPUC—the Peninsula Watershed has long been a protected source of land, making it home to some of the Bay Area’s most intact native habitats, including Douglas fir forests, native bunchgrasses and wetlands. More than 800 species of plants and trees, 165 species of birds and 50 species of mammals can be found in the Peninsula Watershed. In fact, the SFPUC Peninsula Watershed contains the highest concentration of rare, threatened, and endangered species in the nine-county Bay Area and is a State Fish and Game Refuge.
“The watershed harbors an amazing array of native plants and animals, and the trail leader volunteers ensure that trails users are mindful of their presence in this environmentally sensitive area” says Lennie Roberts with the Committee for Green Foothills. “The SFPUC’s management of the trail leader volunteer program is critical to providing public access while protecting these unique ecosystems.”
Because of the delicate nature of the Watershed, and because the reservoirs hold nearly 30 billion gallons of drinking water, the SFPUC developed and adopted the Peninsula Watershed Management Plan, which establishes the framework in which additional education and public access improvements are considered.
A planned extension of the Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail is currently undergoing environmental review. The six-mile extension includes a connection to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Phleger Estate, and improvements to the existing trailhead at Cemetery Gate. Individuals interested in signing up to be Trail Leader Volunteers for the Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail can fill out an application form.
“We are incredibly grateful for the efforts of our dedicated Trail Leader Volunteers—they have been our frontline ambassadors since we opened this trail to the public in 2003,” said John Fournet, the SFPUC’s Community Liaison for the Natural Resources and Lands Management Division. “Over the past 15 years, they have maintained a selfless commitment to responsible stewardship of the Peninsula Watershed. This milestone is truly a celebration of our collaborative partnership.”