• Sutro Stewards

Follow Cole Valley Improvement Association’s Generosity & Give to the Mountain that you love so much

By: Ildiko Polony

Almost one month ago, we launched a matching grant campaign through the Cole Valley Improvement Association for $1,000. We are more than halfway there! President, Lena Emery, handed me the check at the base of the Stanyan street entrance to Mount Sutro, saying she knows how much their members appreciate Mount Sutro, especially now.  Please show your continued support by donating today to help us reach our goal!


As coronavirus cases continue to rise in California and the Bay Area, now more than ever, our public nature space is needed as a source of respite, rejuvenation and recreation. Reflecting deeply on this, I took some time to ask our long time volunteers, board members and staff

what the Mountain means to them. For us here at Sutro Stewards, Mount Sutro has been a place to find serenity and grounding amid these chaotic times, it has been a place of both wonder and surprise, and a place of comfort in the routine of the seasons. As Kelly Dodge, our Stewardship Coordinator puts it, “when everything is on the brink of falling apart, nature continues to exist and go about its cycles, and I can always count on that, at a time when we cannot count on many things.” It has been a place to see familiar faces (from behind a mask, of course), and we know that our daily walks, runs, or time weeding, boosts our immune systems and lowers our stress. We know that we need the Mountain more than ever and others are starting to realize this too. Help us maintain the Mountain’s healing valleys and peaks by keeping the trails safe and clear and our Mountain habitats lush and abundant. Donate here.


Since Shelter in Place was instituted in San Francisco over four months ago, our individual footprints have gotten smaller. Summer travel plans have been canceled, many of us are working from home, if we still have a job, and the number of people that we see has drastically decreased. The number of people that we touch has grown even smaller than that. Loneliness, isolation, uncertainty, insecurity, anger, fear and anxiety are emotions that feel pretty universal right now and for good reason. We can no longer gather with friends, family and loved ones outside of our immediate household, and even more dangerous is gathering indoors. 


Since indoor gathering spaces were closed down back in March, we have seen new faces on Mount Sutro and an increase of visitors enjoying our trails. Our community is growing and we stalwarts have long known the intrinsic value of our Mountain, this “oasis in the middle of the City,” as one board member put it. With the whole city banging our heads against the window, figuratively, and maybe in some cases literally, more and more people are beginning to seek comfort and refuge under the canopy of Mount Sutro. 


What they find when they get here can be summed up by some of our own first experiences on the Mountain, experiences of awe and surprise, “Am I really in the middle of the City?” Is often exclaimed! Leaving the monotony of our homebound lives, the feeling of days blending into days (what’s the weekend anymore?) and to be suspended from the predictability of sheltered in place life, by discovering a new corner of wilderness right here, is a refreshing break from zoom calls, children cooped up inside and obsessively reorganizing the same kitchen cupboard. At the same time, as we return to the Mountain again, and then decide to come back another time, we begin to notice patterns in the trees and flowers, wind and birds. We watch the plum trees bare fruit in the summer, lose their leaves in the winter and show off their pale pink flowers in the springtime. Nature keeps on, even as our human structures appear to be falling apart. The Mountain offers us comfort from the craziness of today’s times. Maryann Rainey, our Advisory Board Secretary, participates “in the routines of the seasons, (by) weeding in summertime and planting in the autumn. These routines, coupled with the gradual changes over weeks and months, the normalcy, helps me,” she writes. When the news brings us an unknown number of unpredictable, awful and life changing headlines, we need a place we can go  that feels untouched from all of this. This place is Mount Sutro. 



Study after study has shown that time outdoors and time in nature, lowers our stress levels and strengthens our immune system. This is invaluable and made even more precious during these times of global pandemic, a mass awakening to systemic racism and an election year that feels as though it were from the twilight zone. We have always needed nature. Maybe now we all see why, our day to day lives call for it in a way that we might not have experienced before. 


During this pandemic we have seen people give to each other in selfless ways. Millions of dollars have been raised for coronavirus related relief work, as well it should! Creative solutions have been found from housing the homeless in empty motel rooms, to mutual aid networks, to rooftop block parties. Where our government has fallen short, in many cases, our hearts have shown us where our priorities lie and we have acted accordingly. Let us continue to prioritize our neighbors, our community, our elderly and our children, regardless of race, national origin, sexual or gender identity. At the same time, we must continue to prioritize our public nature spaces as healing places where we can see one another, where we find peace and calm and where we can experience a sense of routine and normalcy. We must think about what really matters and then we must put our energy there. Sutro Stewards, through our care for the Mountain’s trails and habitats, is in the work of stewarding life giving abundance, whether from planting native plants for birds and pollinators, or by offering space for young ones to make nature discoveries all their own. Yet, it can be hard to raise the basic funds to support our staff and volunteers that do this generative work. Donating to Sutro Stewards will help us keep your Mountain trails clear and accessible, it will help us to continue to steward this Mountain’s native plant communities that support the wildlife that makes Mount Sutro a refuge for us all. 


Please help us raise the $1,000 in matching grant donations that CVIA has generously offered. We are over half way there, and it won’t take much to get us all the way! Just a few clicks and a bit of thought as to what the mountain means to you. Here is the link. Thank you!


In addition to donating to Sutro Stewards, you can put your hands on the land to restore habitat every Wednesday and Thursday for our modified, COVID cautious volunteer stewardship program. Click here to learn more, read the full list of safety precautions, and to sign up!

© 2018 Sutro Stewards

Sutro Stewards is a project of the San Francisco Parks Alliance, a 501(c)3 California nonprofit public benefit corporation.