Celebrating the People’s Movement to Save San Bruno Mountain

By: Ariel Cherbowsky Corkidi, Director of San Bruno Mountain Watch, ariel@mountainwatch.org

San Bruno Mountain is a never-ending gift to the people of the Bay Area, an incomparable public park to continually savor and explore, unique in its rare and endangered ecology and distinctive, lively history. One of the most inspiring features of this rugged present is that it was made possible “by the people, for the people.” ”
50 years ago, the mountain was privately owned and the target of drastic proposals that would have caused tremendous harm to its environmental and cultural resources and decreased the amount of space available for the creation of public parkland.
One scheme in the Sixties aimed to remove over 200 million cubic yards of rock and soil from 600 acres of the eastern ridge of San Bruno Mountain for use as bayfill in order to transform 10,000 acres of the San Francisco Bay into 27 miles of real estate along the San Mateo County shore.
Another plan in the Seventies would have transformed much of the mountain into a mix of high rise apartment buildings, commercial areas, offices, civic centers, homes and schools set among parks and an 18 hole par 3 golf course for a population ranging from 18,000 up to 40,000 people. These proposals sparked a lively and enduring community-based movement that fought for a different vision of the mountain—a wholesome and expansive public park rising among the densely urbanized northern Peninsula.
Today, we humans and our non-human neighbors can roam over 2500 acres of public land on the mountain. San Bruno Mountain Watch is excited to be in the midst of hosting San Bruno Mountain Fest 2020, a commemorative series of events throughout the year to recognize and celebrate the communities, organizations, individuals and agencies whose innumerable and diverse efforts over a 50 year period allowed for the creation of public parkland on San Bruno Mountain.
The movements to save San Bruno Mountain have exemplified progressive values such as having women, youth, and working class people in leadership roles, advocating for the protection of indigenous sacred sites in partnership with native peoples, affirming the value of scientific research, prioritizing the public interest and equitable access to parks, fostering biocentric values in the age of the Anthropocene, and building community power through public demonstrations and marches, petitions, letter-writing campaigns, legal and electoral activism, and more.
Such lessons from the mountain’s grassroots movements are universal and should be spread far and wide, radiating outwards from the mountain’s canyons and slopes—they remain relevant for the environmental and social issues of the present day.
I hope you’ll join us for a variety of celebrations, hikes, lectures, and more as we spread the tales of the mountain and its many champions to its surrounding cities and gathering places. In so doing, you’ll be on your way to becoming an ambassador for the inspirational saga of San Bruno Mountain, a tale you’re bound to carry in your heart for life.
Visit www.mountainwatch.org/sbmfest2020 and www.mountainwatch.org/upcomingevents for more information on San Bruno Mountain Fest 2020. Visit www.mountainwatch.org/archives to explore the San Bruno Mountain Archives, an ongoing digital history project.