It was mid August 2009. Our car idled softly as it rolled north along Miller Ave. The warmth of the mid afternoon sun was serene. We had just come from the Marina neighborhood of San Francisco, saturated in cold fog, not atypical for this time of the year. ‘Pass through downtown and make your way to Old Mill Park’ were the directions to the home we were viewing. Arriving early, my wife and I stepped out of our car and quickly became enthralled by the beauty and tranquility of the setting. Towering redwoods cast shadows on us as we meandered around the area. Both of our eyes were drawn to a set of grey cement steps. Positioned between two steep embankments, it was as if they had existed and watched over this ravine for ages. This was my first memorable experience of many of the historic Steps, Lanes and Paths (SLP) of Mill Valley.
The first paths appear on the 1880’s Tamalpais Land and Water Company maps surveyed in anticipation of this developer’s May 31, 1890 land auction. As each new sub-division of Mill Valley was mapped, planners added more and more paths to the town’s travel routes.
During the days of horse and buggy, Mill Valley’s roads traveled by switch-backs, down mountain slopes to main arteries along Blithedale and Cascade Canyons. The narrow paths were shortcuts, primarily serving those on horseback or on foot.
1/ There are over 175 original steps, lanes and paths.
2/ There are at least 11 community groups working in partnership with the City of Mill Valley to help keep many of these paths alive.
3/ A map showing all 175 is available at the MV Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, MV City Hall, the MV Community Center, and MV Library.
4/ Robert Skip Sandberg published a photo essay book ‘Steps, Lanes and Paths of Mill Valley’
Interested in preserving and restoring SLP’s for the enjoyment of all residents? Join ‘Friends of Mill Valley SLP’ by visiting www.mvslpfriends.org.