Some neighborhoods have simple sidewalks for residents and visitors to use for walking, running, and other exercise routines. However, communities such as Rolando Village have winding “catwalks” and steep staircases with much history.
Rolando Village has eight such catwalks that are used day in and day out by people of all ages. Essentially these catwalks are public sidewalks built in-between homes to connect the community and its residents.
“The catwalks in Rolando Village are a great way to get from point A to point B,” said Sara King, a 14-year resident and head librarian at San Diego Public Library’s College-Rolando Library Branch (6600 Montezuma Road). “I use them all the time as they are good shortcuts to get to where you want to go in and around the community.”
According to the San Diego Natural History Museum’s The Canyoneers, who are volunteers, the catwalks are cement walkways and steps called such because neighborhood cats would often walk along the various pathways. Both were installed throughout the neighborhood during its early development stages to make access to different streets easier.
In an article by The Canyoneers that appeared in the July 18, 2018 issue of the San Diego Reader, they write: “ … There are 256 steps in eight segments, with more walkways than stairways. A double loop, like butterfly wings, begins at Rolando Park on Vigo Drive. The body of this butterfly is the fourth ‘catwalk.’ Walking fast or running this route would provide a major workout. Do the walk-in reverse for more uphill stairs.”
The Canyoneers further describe the Rolando Village tract homes as being “developed after World War II to meet the high demand for housing in the rapidly growing post-war San Diego. The close-knit homes offer interesting architecture, with many bungalow-style homes in this rolling landscape. In fact, the rolling landscape is the reason behind the name of this development. The ‘catwalks’ provide a way of connecting the many tree-lined streets that are found at different elevations. The idea for these pathways may have been influenced by those found in the hilly landscape of adjacent La Mesa — staircases there were first built in 1927...”
Quaint and unique
Beside its catwalks that twist and turn and its challenging stairs to climb, there are colorful foliage and unique acorn-style lampposts all of which add to an overall quaint and yesterday-like ambiance.
If you want to visit and get in a workout or two, don’t look for signs that state “catwalks” instead, it is suggested by The Canyoneers to use cross-streets to discover them.
One visitor who has done just that is Philip Erdelsky, a hiker who leads various hikes and walks via Meetup. He said he visited the catwalks about a year ago and liked the area so much he is planning another trek there soon. While he took the many beautiful photos in this article he said, “I only saw one cat on the catwalks!”
For visitors to Rolando who want to stroll the catwalks, the best place to access them is to turn into the Rolando Park parking area off of Vigo Drive and enter the catwalks near the sign.
—Jill Diamond is a freelance writer with a passion for writing about neighborhood histories.