Staff portrait for Taylor Jang.
By ,
Coyote Valley Project Manager

When POST purchased the 353-acre Alpine Ranch in 2012, we knew it was a special place. Bordered by Sam McDonald and Pescadero Creek Parks, the location boasts astounding views of the Pescadero Creek watershed. Its pond, tributaries and plentiful redwood trees provide habitats for myriad species — some threatened and endangered.

A cabin in major need of repair also came with the grounds, and we saw its potential as a relaxing spot for tired hikers and a unique overnight destination. After extensive renovations, we were excited to share the upgraded Audrey Edna Cabin (named in memory of a major donor’s loved one) with the public. But various complications slowed our course, and we had to rethink the cabin’s immediate future.

POST and our partners agree: All people need connections to nature, not only for recreation, but for their physical and mental health. Research demonstrates that access to safe, outdoor areas has vast benefits including reduced stress and depression, lower blood pressure, improved immune function and more.

 

A Welcoming Place to Gather

Though a public rental system is not yet available, many people have already found refuge at the cabin as a result of our work with trusted local organizations. We’ve hosted families, youth groups, healthcare providers, nonprofit professionals, convalescing patients and more.

We’ve designed the cabin so that that people of all ages and abilities can gather there comfortably. In addition to opportunities for open-air adventures, visitors can rest, recharge and reflect. The cabin’s interior includes plenty of seating, educational guides, board games and children’s activities; its communal space invites people to gather for food, conversations and play, or venture outside to take in the scenery.

You needn’t go far to do so. From a perch on the veranda, you can soak in the ever-present birdsong. Creatures abound if only you watch for them. There are western fence lizards, zig-zagging coveys of quail and speedy cotton-tail rabbits. About 40 paces from the deck, a viewing area overlooks a sweeping forested vista.

A guest enjoys a panoramic view of the fog rolling in through the treetops. As one person wrote in the cabin’s guestbook: “We spent a long time in the early evening enjoying the glorious views from the benches. When it became dark, we could spot the Milky Way and several planets.”

San Mateo County Park Prescription (Park Rx)

At a conference several years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Rachel Borovina of San Mateo County Health — co-founder of their Park Rx program. There, we had a fruitful and energizing discussion about the connection between outdoor equity and mental and physical health. This led to a promising new idea. What if POST and Park Rx joined forces to offer an immersive, overnight experience at the cabin for local patients and their families?

Led by a pediatrician from the San Mateo Medical Center and a community program specialist from Public Health Policy and Planning, Park Rx has a unique connection to the population they serve. Patients have been open with them about the barriers to outdoor access they’ve experienced generally and at the cabin, like cost and ownership of gear, accommodations for individuals with disabilities and an assumed comfort level with being in remote, natural settings.

Three hikers enjoy the nearby trails. “It was so lovely to be able to observe the wilderness at different times of day,” wrote one visitor in the guest book, “and hear all the animals and bird sounds as well as the deep silence.” Another guest asked: “Who would have thought there could be such peace, beauty and solitude only 40 minutes from home in Silicon Valley?”

Creating a More Inclusive Experience

With these obstacles in mind, we worked together to create a more inclusive experience. Visitors have approached the cabin via varied routes. Some toted their gear over two steep-but-shaded miles of rolling hills. Others drove straight to the door. A wheelchair ramp now awaits guests who need it. Visitors can review the cabin guide in English or Spanish. And, following requests for cheerier decor, we added bright artwork by local children.

Through this partnership, we’ve gained valuable insight into how we can create a better experience for everyone who eventually comes to visit.

What’s Next?

Going forward, we’re excited to strengthen our partnership with Park Rx, as well as with other organizations whose members can benefit from a stay at the cabin. What’s more, we understand that fostering equitable access is an ongoing and iterative process.

One day, we hope to open the doors to the public so that everyone can share this one-of-a-kind place — when that’s available, we’ll let you know! In the meantime, we’ll continue to refine the cabin’s amenities with the goal of creating welcoming experiences in nature that our guests will cherish for years to come.

 

 

About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 80,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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