Photo credit: John Hale
UPDATE: A petition to keep Crystal Springs open is almost at its 3,000 signature goal. The petition calls the situation “Urgent!” and describes the circumstances under which the nationally renowned cross country course is at risk of shutting down. Signers of the petition shared why the course held personal importance. One petitioner wrote,”This course has provided me with years of wonderful memories. From weekend practices to meets with hundreds of people, this place needs to be saved for all of the future generations.”
Crystal Springs is a cross country course situated in the hills along Interstate 280, overlooking the Crystal Springs reservoir and the city of San Francisco. For decades, the course has been the location of countless cross country races and Menlo-Atherton runners compete there every year. Just this past season, M-A students ran in three meets at Crystal Springs, including PAL Finals and CCS Championships.
Crystal Springs is recognized as one of the best cross country courses in the nation. This is because it is one of the few cross country courses constructed specifically for that purpose. The other courses M-A Cross Country competes at are mapped out portions of parks and schools, such as Lowell Park or Half Moon Bay high school. A lack of a clear trail can sometimes be confusing for runners, especially if they are running on a new course.
Bob Rush constructed the course in 1971 on land owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and maintains it to this day. He built the course to be used by the College of San Mateo (CSM) cross country team, he was the coach at the time, and by the public. Crystal Springs has become a popular spot with hikers and joggers, especially given the scenic views the location provides. However, CSM has decided to relieve itself of its permit because “the College has stopped using the course except for an occasional meet every 2-3 years,” said an official statement asking for “immediate release” from the contract. Moreover, CSM is concerned about the liability risk as more organizations are utilizing the course for their meets, a trend that upsets some nearby residents. Without anyone covering the financial responsibilities of managing the course that the permit entails, Crystal Springs runs the risk of being shut down.
The statement carries a hopeful tone about the future of the course stating, “College of San Mateo does not want to see this community resource go away” and that they hope to transfer the permit to another organization by the end of 2020. In the meantime, they said that the course will remain open for its regular usage once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
However, Rush has a different perspective on the situation saying, “It is with a very sad heart to announce that the College of San Mateo Athletic Department will be closing the CSM Crystal Springs Cross Country Course to all schools and all public runners and walkers. The entire area will be closed to all. It will not open even after the coronavirus has been controlled.”
“I’m actually not surprised. There has always been a lot of talk that the course was not going to be able to stay open… If the course doesn’t open next year the PAL might have to go back to doing what they did a long time ago, which was cross country dual meets at different high schools. There’s also talk about using Bayfront Park in Menlo Park as a new cross country course for the area,” said Head Coach Eric Wilmurt about the possible closure of Crystal Springs.
Varsity runner Katriona Briggs (sophomore) said, “I am sad at the thought of Crystal Springs being shut down. It is a very meaningful course because we run our most important races there at the end of the season when the team is as synced and bonded as we can be. Cross country season would not be itself without the ever looming threat of Crystal as the ultimate test we work towards all season.”
It will remain to be seen what happens to the Crystal Springs Cross Country Course over the following months.