West Marin Humans Endangered By National Parks
By Stephen Simac

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the Point Reyes National Seashore and Mount Tamalpais state park cover virtually all of southern, West Marin. Out here only a few islands of human habitation are surrounded by vast areas of wilderness and parkland. These isolated encampments are being eroded by policies and actions of the federal park service.

Affordable housing in West Marin is gradually being weeded out of the ecosystem by the actions of the park service. The destruction of housing began as soon as the parks were created by congress and have been unabated since, not whole towns at once, yet with the same impact. There have been dozens of houses bulldozed, even one boarded up for bats to live in, while many others have been occupied by park rangers.

The 10-15% rise in property values and rental rates in counties with national and state parks

benefits landlords and Realtors but threatens the habitat of the farmers, ranchers, families, workers, elderly and children in those counties. There are other reasons for the loss of affordable homes in West Marin than the federal park, but the park continues to destroy housing and wants more land in their sphere of influence.

The Farmlands Protection Act of Representative Woolsey would have placed another enormous chunk of land and housing under the tightening control of the park administrators. It was defeated because of their history of autocratic relations with the community as much as by the coalition of ranchers and Republicans who killed it in Congress.

The park's hegemony has been challenged recently by an aroused citizenry of West Marin. After a tumultuous hearing with herds of irate equestrians over the closing of horse stables in the GGNRA, the park service held a series of public meetings. Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey facilitated some of the meetings and continued with town meetings which brought up more complaints and challenges.

Park officials brought the headache of an involved citizenry on themselves by their failure to communicate with the residents of West Marin about their imperious decisions, leasing a historic ranch to the Bird Observatory, their unwillingness to deal with transportation problems caused by their attractive nuisance, the arrogance of some of their officers, and the reduction of affordable housing caused by the park. These are on the table and if the public stays aware for longer than the "next movie at the mall," park officials will continue to perform their duties as expected.

They had to play the public servant, we've been bad, whip us good, for the crowd pleasing effect at the meetings. Of course they'll be back like a hydra headed serpent promising to preserve and protect some idealized vision of nature which doesn't include humans, except hordes of visitors or the wealthy who maintain second homes here. Where they expect the workers to live who service the tourists and wealthy, as the park steadily erodes affordable housing is not debated. They expect them to commute like everyone else but don't pitch in to maintain the roads over the hill or provide adequate alternatives. It seems as if in their view humans are some non-native species. The park is not the only reason for the destruction of affordable habitat. The astronomical rise in real estate values in the Bay Area, bank lending practices, federal, state and county regulations and fees, water issues, and conspiratorial cabals of Realtors buying up homes to create overpriced, short term rentals have done more damage. Then there's the vicious infighting of homeowners fighting new affordable housing.

It's a crisis, yet the federal park service has continued to demolish houses with no regard for where the residents will go. They'll airlift excess elk to a new habitat, the Bolinas lagoon renters just get notice.

The people of Jewel and Tocaloma are being evicted next, not quite towns, just wide spots in the road, ranchers mostly.

Wealthy humans match the environmental criteria of the park service more than poorer people, who are regarded with the same concern as broom, pampas grass or eucalyptus.

The meetings were humbling for the head rangers who apologized and seemed contrite. This was evidently only show biz because now they've announced they are going back to their original position on the stables.

There are legitimate environmental issues with stables and their waste, with cattle and their erosion, with humans and their impact. The federal government could work with the humans who live out here and visitors to protect the ecology of west Marin.

The park service has an opportunity to forge a new direction, of including humans and their historic presence in West Marin as part of their mission of preserving and restoring parklands.

They need to understand that many residents of West Marin want a healthy environment, but with humans as part of it, not as foreign invaders. If you are interested in serving on the ad hoc committee for West Marin to the park, applications are available through Steve Kinsey's office.