Hoping to solicit more public feedback on the document that will guide its existence over the next 20 years, Golden Gate National Recreation Area announced last week that it has extended the comment period for its draft General Management Plan (GMP) through December 9. The period had been set to expire on Monday.
The National Park Service began drafting an updated plan five years ago to address changes that have taken place both in and outside of the park’s boundaries since the last GMP was released in 1980.
The draft, which is available for viewing at www.parkplanning.nps.gov/goga, outlines four management alternatives, each with regionally specific directives and development goals. They range in content, from a no-action alternative to an extensive, preservation-oriented plan—Alternative 3—that calls for nearly $80 million dollars in one-time costs.
Three primary local changes, including the incorporation of Bolinas Lagoon into park oversight, possible parking fees at various locations and the construction of a large welcome center near Muir Woods National Monument, would occur under any alternative.
The park’s “preferred alternative”—Alternative 1, an action alternative—is said to seek a balance between conservation efforts and the continued promotion of diverse recreational uses. Below is an overview of Alternative 1 as it pertains to West Marin.
Stinson Beach to Bolinas-Fairfax Road
Alternative 1 centers on improving visitor access while reducing overall traffic congestion. At Stinson Beach, the park would install new restrooms, picnic areas and parking lots, and possibly build an integrative visitor center with equipment rentals, food service and educational resources. It also would consider increasing the frequency of public transportation to the beach area during peak summer weekends.
Creek buffers would be expanded to further protect endangered species habitat and to enhance surrounding dunes. Nearby trails would receive a general facelift, with better-delineated signage and more connecting routes. Non-developed areas north of Stinson Beach would continue to be managed with conservation and fire mitigation as the chief concerns.
Route One and Panoramic Highway
The park would continue to work with Caltrans, California State Parks and Marin County to improve sections of road, refurbish trail crossings and build new scenic overlook points and trailheads, including a small parking area near White Gate Ranch. Trail access to Homestead Hill, located east of Muir Woods, would also be improved.
Slide Ranch would continue to be managed as an environmental farm and education center, but would see enhancements to its day-use capacities, including a new picnic area, trail access point and scenic overlook.
Lower Redwood Creek (former Banducci flower farm) and Muir Beach
Efforts to restore the riparian habitats and protect endangered salmon populations in the area would continue, while trail connections would be added from Mount Tamalpais State Park and the California Coastal Trail. Muir Woods Road could be re-routed away from the creek. The park would also consider building a stewardship center with a native plant nursery to “reinvigorate the horticultural traditions of the site.” A small trailhead parking and picnic area would be added near Santos Meadow and the Frank Valley horse camp.
The park would continue to work with Muir Beach Community Services District and the county to restore and enhance water quality in sensitive habitat areas at the mouth of Redwood Creek.
Golden Gate Dairy and vicinity
The preferred alternative encourages the continued preservation of the historic buildings and pastoral character of the site, while increasing public use, such as by adding a small trailhead and transit stop and by improving pedestrian crossings. Equestrian facilities would remain, and the park would expand the number of programs geared toward the public. It would also push for more regularly scheduled transit services, particularly during peak weekends and months, to reduce vehicular traffic. Surrounding uplands would receive new trail connectors.
Tennessee Valley (from Oakwood Valley to Tennessee Valley Road)
The Tennessee Valley trailhead would see improvements such as restrooms with potable water and a new picnic and parking area. The park would also consider constructing a small food and information kiosk, and would consider adding a multiuse trail connecting to Oakwood Valley and the Mill Valley Bike Path (also known as the San Francisco Bay Trail) and adding shuttle services to the trailhead on peak season weekends.
The Oakwood Valley trailhead would receive a similar overhaul. The main multiuse trail to the ocean would be enhanced to better accommodate large family groups; primitive group camping could be retained at Haypress Campground, near Pirates Cove, and at the Youth Conservation Corps group site. Any remaining dams and artificial ponds would be removed.
Offshore ocean area
As with all of the proposed alternatives, the preferred alternative describes the park’s role as a both a promoter of recreational activities such as surfing, boating and noncommercial fishing and of the continued conservation of sensitive marine habitat areas and species.
The “environmentally preferable” alternative
The preferred alternative is also the “environmentally preferable” alternative because it provides “the best means to preserve important historic, cultural, and natural aspects of our national heritage and maintain, wherever possible, an environment that supports diversity and variety of individual choice.” Under Alternative 2, which focuses less on recreation than on conservation, “visitor opportunities would not be as diverse.” Taking no action limits the “range of beneficial uses” because some of the park is not easily identifiable and welcoming to visitors. And, according to the GMP, many existing areas and resources are in need of extensive restoration or stabilization.
Elements excluded from the plan
There is no direct discussion in the draft GMP about dog and dog leash regulations; the park is currently conducting a separate and extensive dog management plan, which will eventually be incorporated into the final version of the GMP.
There are a number of other ongoing plans and projects that have relevance to the overall management plan. These include the Redwood Creek restoration project, the Point Reyes National Seashore draft GMP, the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary plan and various regional land protection plans.
Cost and staffing estimates
Alternative 1 would cost an estimated $32 million to operate annually, with a one-time capital investment of $46.7 million. This would incorporate costs from individual site projects and the addition of 46 full-time park employees. By comparison, the no-action alternative would cost $2.8 million to operate annually with no added staff and $5.28 million in one-time costs. Alternative 2 would cost an estimated $31.1 million annually, with 35 added full-time positions and a $47.3 million. Costs for Alternative 3 would hover at $31.6 million annually, with 43 new staff positions and $78.2 million in one-time costs.