New Tomales Bay boat launch planned for Marconi

David Briggs
A proposed state park at Marconi Cove will include a boat launch, paved parking lot and six small campsites with adjoining picnic tables.

Plans to build a recreational park and boat launch on five acres of vacant state land at Marconi Cove in Marshall moved forward last week as the California Coastal Commission approved a nearby CalTrans project that will funnel $266,000 into the park’s development funds.

The proposed $1.2 million park would include a boat launch, paved parking lot large enough to accommodate 20 vehicles with trailers and six small campsites with adjoining picnic tables. It is expected to be complete in 2015. 

Since purchasing the parcel, which served as a marina until the late 70s, in 2002, the California Department of Parks and Recreation has sought to develop it as a small camping facility and alternative to Miller Boat Launch, located a few miles to the north, but has been unable to due to funding deficiencies. 

CalTrans is donating the funds as mitigation for a forthcoming project that includes the installation of boulders and other objects along Highway One to prevent deterioration from storms and erosion. That money, as well as a previous agreement from the California Boating and Waterways (CBW) to front the remaining development costs, has given the park project new life. 

“We see it as an opportunity for people to come, sit at a picnic table and look at the bay,” said Staff Park and Recreation Specialist Roy McNamee. “This isn’t intended to be a destination camping spot, but more an in-route spot that kayakers or cyclists or drivers moving through can use.”

Though the commission voted unanimously to approve the project, concern was raised from local groups—most notably the Environmental Action Committee (EAC) of West Marin—that the project could negatively impact marshland on the property, particularly if funding for the future management of the completed park does not materialize. 

McNamee noted that, given the state’s current plan to shutter some 70 parks in 2012 due to budget cuts, his agency has planned for limited funding. The facility would rely on very little water—no septic system would be installed—and other operational costs would be low. The park will likely employ a camp-host program, whereby volunteers with RVs will apply for a rotating position at the park. “They would be allowed to stay there in exchange for keeping their eyes and ears out for anything suspicious,” McNamee said.

In a letter sent to the commission, EAC Executive Director Amy Trainer raised concerns over whether construction of the boat launch would require dredging. The CBW said it would not. 

Marshall resident Linda Emme expressed concern about the project’s impact on native frogs. “On spring evenings, one hears a booming, harmonious blend of frog calls,” she wrote. “Considering that frogs are declining drastically in other areas and are considered an indicator species, I believe that serious consideration should be given to this place where they are living and breeding successfully.”

McNamee said that all concerns regarding potential habitat disturbance and/or loss would be addressed in a full environmental review, which his agency plans to complete with the funds it has now received from CalTrans. No date or timeline is set for the review, but it will likely begin sometime next year.