Siren Canteen pays to open Stinson Beach parking lot, restrooms during shutdown

David Briggs
With a donation to the National Park Service, the Siren Canteen opened the gates to the Stinson Beach parking lot last weekend. It hopes to keep beach facilities accessible during the government shutdown.   

When the owner of Siren Canteen, the waterside concessionaire on Stinson Beach, realized the federal government shutdown was surging onward, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Last week, Mary Margaret Stewart made a donation to the National Park Service in order to re-open the beach, which, along with the rest of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, has been closed since the shutdown began over two weeks ago. Her donation covered the cost of opening and maintaining the parking lot and public restrooms for four days. Ms. Stewart, who has run the canteen for five years and recently won a new 10-year contact, said she made the “hefty” donation in order to “keep the place alive and happy and going.” “I have employees to pay and people to feed,” she added. Yet the money ran out this past Monday, and on Tuesday the beach was closed once more. Since the Siren is closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Ms. Stewart is not paying to open the park on those days, but she plans to keep the beach open on other days as long as the shutdown continues. Bonnie Sullivan, owner of Stinson Beach Books, said the beach facilities’ reopening has “changed everyone’s demeanor” and significantly reduced parking congestion. “It’s really elevated the level of happiness for people wandering through town and visitors coming in,” she said. “Local people are really excited to have her open that up.” The shutdown has been challenging for the coastal town, which became “a mess” over the busy holiday weekend, said Kenny Stevens, chief of the Stinson Beach Volunteer Fire Department. Before Ms. Stewart had opened the beach facilities back up, there were “a lot of parking problems, people using the bathroom everywhere they could.” Chief Stevens called Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, who in turn contacted the Marin County Open Space District and obtained five porta-potties for the beach. A group of 10 locals, led by Chief Stevens, banded together to empty and bag overflowing trash from the federal parking lot and beach’s barbecue sites. The Siren Canteen, open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Mondays, serves burgers, Mexican food, drinks and more at the lifeguard tower, on Stinson Beach.