Meet Sutro Stewards Crew Leader, Mark Sullivan! If you attended a Saturday stewardship event in the past year, you likely met Mark, and may have even learned a thing or two about trail building from him. Mark is a frequent Crew Leader on Mount Sutro, and we are fortunate to have his guidance and enthusiasm during events. As a Crew Leader, Mark leads teams of volunteers to carry out safe, fun, and effective projects to build and maintain trails throughout the open space. Thanks, Mark! Read on to learn more about Mark.
Tell us a little about yourself! What is your background and where are you from?
I've been from the Mission for the past nine years. Before that, I'm from suburban New Jersey by way of Hoboken. I'm a Software Engineer with the Internet Archive, proudly advancing its mission of "Universal Access to All Knowledge". Many people assume I met my wife through trail work (sometimes she comes to Mt. Sutro and I boss her around; other times I work with the Volunteers for Outdoor California (V-O-Cal.org) and she bosses me around), but that's only indirectly true.
Mark (right) and Crew Leaders at Sutro Stewards 10th Anniversary Celebration
How did you first hear about Sutro Stewards and what made you want to volunteer?
My brother (also in the Mission, but by a slightly different route) got me into cyclocross right after I moved to California. Then Dan Schneider offered my regular riding group a tour of the dirt trails of the city, amazing me with the bounty barely beyond our collective doorstep. And I met Rezz through Rock the Bike's pedal-powered concerts and SF Bike Party; was he involved in telling me to try out Sutro Stewards? I can't remember. People talk about "If you ride them, you should work on the trails," but I needed little pressure to get me to start moving dirt. As a kid, I loved digging in the backyard and at the beach, making roads and bridges for my cars, burying family members. My imaginary friend was named "Dig-Dig".
What made you want to take the next step to become a Crew Leader and what commitment and responsibilities do you have in that leadership position?
Once I started, I just got more feedback for more. Yep, I got to dig in the dirt, move logs, and stack rocks: a refreshing break from my professional tasks of staring at computers and wiggling my fingers. I quite liked knowing that I was improving the trails, and riding them the afternoon after working on them and seeing other people enjoy them, and then coming back to a particular site a few months after working on it and seeing my work as a natural part of the trail system. I've always enjoyed teaching, and the Sutro Stewards needed crew leaders, so of course I signed up for the class.
I make it to most of the Saturday work days, usually leading a crew, welcoming volunteers, teaching what makes a good trail, ensuring people know how to keep their bodies and their friends' bodies safe from tools & poison oak & gravity. I like to find out how much each person wants to learn, get exercise, do a good deed, or socialize, and then I help everyone have a satisfying enough time that they hopefully join us again. I also welcome the challenge of planning big projects: whacking poison oak & stomping through blackberry to choose the alignment for a new new trail, debating how tough it would be to dig down over there vs fill over there and protect those tree roots, looking for a flatish spot to place a switchback with a nice supply of good rock, standing wherever Dan Bernards tells me to so he can judge the slope with his clinometer.
Mark (center) and Crew Leaders receive recognition during lunch at Ridge Trail Day
What is your favorite Trail on Mount Sutro and why?
I love the challenge of the Fairy Gates! Needing to put my front wheel right between those two rocks so it won't slide, shifting my weight at just the right time so I have enough traction to make the jump and get my wheels to the next foothold. Yeah! The North Ridge still has a few spots that wake me up, but I admit that I do miss the steep section that we rerouted in 2015. But I've also discovered and now repeatedly go zipping around the little loop at the bottom of the South Ridge.
Speed round! What is your favorite:
Trail snack? Chickweed with a little nasturtium
Place to hike/bike/run? Mt. Sutro! It's close, it's interesting, and I'm certain to see an old friend or make a new one.