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The Story of Oak Lane Stairway

In 1890, Michael O’Shaughnessy, an engineer from San Francisco, had a vision to create a pedestrian friendly Mill Valley. To do this, he had to plan out paths and trails that would cut across the hilly landscape, making the downtown accessible to all residents. Today we call these pathways, SLPs or Steps, Lanes and Paths, and there are hundreds of them throughout Mill Valley and its surrounding areas. With so many homes being built in the hills these paths are not only used for recreation, they have become important evacuation routes as well.

Over the years, more and more neighborhoods throughout Mill Valley have worked with the City to construct or improve existing SLPs that enable residents to move up and down the hill more freely. This is the case with SLP 48, also known as the Oak Lane Stairway.

It began in 1993 when resident and architect Frank Hailey, a member of the Lion’s Club, volunteered to design a structure from Tamalpais Ave on the middle ridge down to Cornelia above Old Mill School. The design would be difficult as it needed to go around large trees and utility lines and provide drainage to direct the water that naturally flows down the hill during the winter months. Using a corps of volunteers from local neighborhood groups: Tamalpais-Magee, Upper Tamalpais Neighborhood Association, the Mill Valley Lions Club and many friends throughout the community, the stairs were constructed over a five-year period. The cement posts for handrails and the concrete transitions were completed by the City of Mill Valley.

In 2000, the Tam-Magee Neighborhood Association applied for and were awarded a Marin Community Foundation Neighborhood Achievement Award. The funds from the award have been used over the years for maintenance and repairs. Since the construction, the neighbors have held an annual maintenance day to fill-in and clean-up the stairway to ensure its longevity. This year’s workday took place on Saturday May 12th and the neighborhood dedication is nothing short of inspiring.

If you are interested in getting involved in maintaining your local SLP or learning about the existing SLP maintenance schedule, please contact Ronnie Moore, Volunteer Coordinator for more information at vmoore@cityofmillvalley.org