In Chile’s capital, a new path unites communities

The Sendero Rústico will run the base of San Cristóbal Hill and promote outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling.

San Cristóbal Hill is a favorite destination for both tourists and Santiago residents alike. Cyclists, joggers, hikers and picnickers can be found making their way towards the summit, taking advantage of the nearly 25 miles (40 km) of paths and roads that wind their way through the park.

Yet while the hill may be extensive, its roads are not ideal for the amount of traffic they bear the brunt of daily. Many of the paths are in need of maintenance, and as a result cars, bicyclists and pedestrians are forced to compete for limited space on the main road.

A new project proposed by architectural group Elemental hopes to change all that. The government has already begun construction of a pedestrian and cyclist path that will run the entire base of the hill.

It’s been named the Sendero Rústico, or “rustic path”, and officials expect to finish by as early as next year. When completed it will be the largest in the Metropolitan Park system and will serve to connect four distinct communities: Vitacura, Providencia, Recoleta and Huechuraba.

Subsecretary of Housing Juan Carlos Jobet sees this as a positive step. He stated, “This will give it a unifying quality, because it connects communities from the east with the north. It will be an equal plane, that allows us to realize the different contrasts Santiago has. From there you’ll be able to see Sanhattan, but also other, different neighborhoods.”

This egalitarian path has been sometime in the making. Conceived as the brainchild of architect Ricardo Torrejón more than ten years ago, the project was presented to  different authorities on various occasions but nothing resulted of the talks. With the creation of the Parque de la Infancia, which officially opened in April of this year, the project gained new momentum in the government. Working closely with Elemental, the government has adapted the original idea and made some modifications, but assures the essence of Torrejon’s original idea will remain intact.

The director of the Metropolitan Park system, Mauricio Fabry, explained the path will be made of gravel with an average width of 11 feet (3.5 m), and include retention walls and drainages. Most importantly, there will be plenty of nature, including small waterfalls and abundant vegetation.

“It will be a face-to-face encounter with nature,” he said.