The idea for the Bay Area Ridge Trail came from the late William Penn Mott, a legendary park director who envisioned a way to "walk through natural areas entirely around the Bay" in the early '60s, soon after he had become head of the East Bay Regional Park District.
I learned about the depth of Bill Mott's role in conceiving the trail during an interview with Brian O'Neill, chairman of the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council and current superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).
"I got involved with the Ridge Trail because of Bill Mott. He came to San Francisco in his 80s in 1987, a year after I became superintendent, looked me right in the eye, and said, 'Brian, I've always had this dream of someday creating a 400-mile trail to link all the communities of the Bay Area. It would follow the ridgetops but would have connector trails that would tie every community together not only physically but also spiritually. It would demonstrate how entities can move beyond their own selfish views of the world and work toward a common goal. I've achieved a lot in my career, but this is one project I wasn't able to get around to. It's time for you to step forward to make it happen.'
"I said, 'Bill, I'll take your challenge.' It was an offer I couldn't refuse from a man who had earned the right to make it. I helped organize a core group with the support of the Greenbelt Alliance before we got an appropriation from Congress to put together a coalition. We've been working on the project for a decade now, and we have more than half of the 400-mile trail completed."
You can help by joining the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council ($35 year/$15 student). Visit its Web site at www.ridgetrail.org or contact the group at 26 O'Farrell St., Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94108, (415) 391-9300.