Father Junipero Serra and our Public Lands at the Watershed

South San Francisco, CA        July 28, 2014       By Andy Howse,   Founder Open SF Watersed
banner view of 280 father serra & watershed

 Is Father Junipero Serra pointing at the trails in the SF Watershed over and on the other side of the ridge line that should be opened to the public?

Probably not, but that is one of the great beauties of art, to be able to interpret.
One thing is clear, this rest stop and monument is a great place to get a view of Crystal Springs and the SF Watershed. This is a nice place to stop, and take in the view.


Jerry Morissette succeed in transforming the rest stop into a safe place of beauty

Jerry Morissette succeed in transforming the rest stop into a safe place of beauty

San Carlos resident Louis DuBois personally designed and financed the statue’s construction in 1976. For many years this rest stop was taken care of by Jerry Morissette who lived on the property and took care of it. Jerry moved into the rest stop in 1990 and was credited with for turning a place once notorious for sexual pickups, drugs and vandalism into a safe, immaculate place renowned for bouquets of flowers on the restroom sinks, well-tended flower beds and his own friendly presence. After living there for thirteen years Jerry was evicted in 2003. (UPDATE Aug 2014 from Gary Richard from Mercury News HERE)

After being closed for two years, in 2011 the “Father Serra Rest Stop” reopened with a face lift including new bathrooms and vending machines. Also a ramp accessing people in wheel chairs access to view the Father Serra statue up close.

Certainly the artistic value of this place has been hotly debated, as the legacy of Father Serra himself. We wonder how the Ohlone people feel about the name of the monument “Bay Area Discovery Site” on Sweeny Ridge, documenting where Father Serra first saw the Bay coming over the hill from Pacifica.

Historical sites are not available to the public even though they are on public lands

Historical sites are not available to the public even though they are on public lands. Lake Pilarcitos

That said, we cannot change history and there is a lot of evidence that Father Serra was a pretty decent guy. Especially considering the fights he did to shield Native Americans against the Spanish Military during their process of acculturation that he was an integral part of in California. He also took a collection and raised $137 for George Washington during the revolutionary war.

Dr. Iris Engstrand, professor and chair of the Department of History at the University of San Diego described him as “much nicer to the Indians, really, than even to the governors. He didn’t get along too well with some of the military people, you know. His attitude was, ‘Stay away from the Indians.’ I think you really come up with a benevolent, hard-working person who was strict in a lot of his doctrinal leanings and things like that, but not a person who was enslaving Indians, or beating them, ever….He was a very caring person and forgiving. Even after the burning of the mission in San Diego, he did not want those Indians punished. He wanted to be sure that they were treated fairly…”

Whatever your take on Father Serra, what is not debatable is that he is an important character in our regions unique history.

We hope that if Father Junipero Serra was with us today, he would be in favor of the public’s right to hike and cycle in the SF Watershed.



*Father Serra Wikipedia

* Ryan Kim – SF Gate –January 2003 Rest Stop Caretaker Told To Hit The Road

*Associated Press – July 1995   Caretaker Has Found A Home He Cares For

*Bill Silverfarb- San Mateo Daily Journal – May 2011 Famous Rest Stop Reopens

*Mark Simon – SF Gate – January 2003 Caretaker Even Better At PR

About ‘OpenThe SF Watershed’

The SF Watershed is a 23,000 acre open space on the SF Peninsula that is currently closed to the public. ‘Open the SF Watershed’ is an organization founded by Andy Howse, a fifth generation Peninsula resident, who is dedicated to preserving and sharing our local history through education and exploration in a responsible sustainable manner. ‘Open the Watershed’ is working with the SFPUC, local and state officials, and the public, to see the current roadways opened for responsible public hiking, cycling and equestrians.

To learn more about this group please CLICK HERE. For current updates, great stories and photos CLICK HERE

For more information you can also contact Andy at openthesfwatershed@gmail.com


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