Park retracts bus stop plan for Muir Beach

09/04/2014

The park service has put the brakes on a proposed bus stop and trail in Muir Beach slated for construction this month, after the plans drew anger from locals over increased tourist traffic in the small community and a lawsuit from the Mount Tam Task Force focused on the unanalyzed environmental impacts of construction. The park said the minimal nature of the project precluded a full-blown environmental assessment, citing exemptions in national environmental law pertaining to transportation projects that don’t entail construction and minor trail relocation; the task force’s lawsuit, filed at the end of July, claimed those exemptions didn’t apply, and that the project’s proximity to a designated wetland and other habitat, as well as its size, necessitated a full review. According to task force co-chair Kristin Shannon, the stop was actually located on land owned by Green Gulch Zen Center, on which the park has a conservation easement. (Green Gulch’s manager, Sara Tashker, did not return a request for comment, though last month she told the Light they hadn’t been notified of the park’s plans before bids were solicited.) In a letter to residents, Frank Dean, the superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, wrote that “because of community concerns about the proposed bus stops to serve Muir Beach, and the impact of the construction schedule and funding to address these concerns, we have withdrawn plans to construct the project at this time.” Ms. Shannon noted that the letter does not mention the group’s environmental concerns. But the nonprofit and their pro bono lawyers, from the San Francisco-based firm Morrison and Foester, say the project was pulled both because it should have been subject to an environmental assessment and because of Green Gulch’s ownership. Although the park says the bus stop would have served both tourists and locals—a claim the task force disputed, arguing that it would have been of little to no use for Muir Beach residents—Mr. Dean said the agency could restart the planning process in the future, and the park is committed to finding “better and more constructive ways to communicate about this project and future park plans and projects.”