The Ridge Trail family and the entire Bay Area parks and recreation community mourn the loss of open space advocate and former Ridge Trail Council Board Chair Phil Arnold. Phil, 74, died in San Francisco on Sept 6 after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his wife, Monique Zmuda; brother, Steve Arnold, sister-in-law Carol, and nieces Kristina and Melia; son Daniel Arnold, daughter-in-law Ashley and grandson Sage; son Paul Zmuda and daughter-in-law Ashley; daughter Adrienne Bechelli and son-in-law Brett; his daughter Misha Arnold; niece Nicole Tibbetts; and former wife Stephanie Kelvin Prieto.
Phil loved the outdoors, and he loved San Francisco. An avid hiker, swimmer, sailor and runner, he dedicated much of his professional and personal life to advocacy for parks, open space and recreational opportunities in San Francisco and beyond. He spent more than 33 years working for the City and County of San Francisco, including 11 with the Recreation and Park Department. At age 41, he became director of RPD’s Open Space Program, where one of his priorities was the acquisition of hilltops so that views of San Francisco could be preserved for the public.
Phil served on the San Francisco Parks Alliance Board of Directors and as a Commissioner of the San Francisco Housing Authority. He was a member of the Ridge Trail Council Board of Directors from 2005-2019, and was the Chair from 2016-2018. During that time he led our efforts to complete the Ridge Trail in San Francisco and reroute it to green spaces—work that continues today thanks to the momentum he built. He also established a living trust benefiting the Ridge Trail that will provide much need funds to work toward the vision he shared with us. We are honored to list him as a member of the Ridge Trail Legacy Circle.
Phil was deeply loved and respected for his dedication to parks and recreation. Perhaps the greatest testament to that esteem is the Phil Arnold Trail in Golden Gate Park, named in his honor and dedicated on February 22, 2019. The trail meanders through a grove of mature coast live oak trees in the northeast corner of Golden Gate Park, providing the type of peaceful respite from urban life that Phil was so intent on ensuring for fellow San Franciscans.
“Phil was a talented, dedicated and effective champion of parks and natural spaces who encouraged us to find the silver lining in every cloud. The Ridge Trail Council is so fortunate to have had him as our leader, advocate, mentor and friend. His legacy lives on in the trails and parks he helped create and in the people and relationships he nurtured,” says Ridge Trail Executive Director Janet McBride. “We are all going to miss him.”