New sys­tem to visit scenic Muir Woods

Pub­lic ac­cess via car or bus will re­quire reser­va­tions, fees

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAY AREA - By Carl Nolte

Start­ing Tues­day, for the first time in its 110 years as a na­tional mon­u­ment, reser­va­tions will be re­quired for nearly all pub­lic ac­cess to Muir Woods.

This means vis­i­tors ar­riv­ing by pri­vate car or pub­lic shut­tle bus will need to have made a reser­va­tion in ad­vance. The new sys­tem will af­fect more than 95 per­cent of the 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple who visit Muir Woods ev­ery year. Only those who hike or bike into the park will not need a reser­va­tion.

The reser­va­tion sys­tem has been in the works for a while, since the num­ber of vis­i­tors to Muir Woods jumped by more than 30 per­cent in the past 10 years.

On the sum­mer’s three ma­jor hol­i­days — Memo­rial, In­de­pen­dence and La­bor days — in 2017, more than 6,000 peo­ple crammed into the for­est, which con­tains 240 acres of old-growth red­woods. Muir Woods has only 232 park­ing spa­ces set

aside for cars and 12 for buses. The re­sult: Cars end up be­ing strung out for miles along ac­cess roads, cre­at­ing a traf­fic night­mare.

“We had to do some­thing,” said Mia Mon­roe, the Na­tional Park Ser­vice pub­lic li­ai­son for Muir Woods.

The sys­tem that goes into ef­fect Tues­day will op­er­ate ev­ery day of the year. A reser­va­tion costs $8 per car, and a seat on the shut­tle bus will cost $3 for ev­ery­one older than 16. Chil­dren younger than 16 will be free, but they will still need a seat reser­va­tion. There is also a $10 fee to en­ter the park. Road­side park­ing will be re­stricted.

Shut­tle buses, which run from Sausal­ito, Marin City and a park-and-ride lot near Ta­mal­pais Val­ley, op­er­ate on week­ends most of the year and ev­ery day dur­ing the sum­mer. There are no im­me­di­ate plans to ex­pand week­day ser­vice.

Reser­va­tions can be made on­line at www.go­muir­ or by call­ing (800) 4102419 Reser­va­tions can be made 90 days in ad­vance, but a lim­ited num­ber will be held back for vis­its five days in ad­vance.

Reser­va­tions won’t be ac­cepted at the park en­trance, so the days of show­ing up at Muir Woods on the spur of the mo­ment and hop­ing for a park­ing spot are over.

“You just can’t drop in any­more,” Mon­roe said.

She thinks the pub­lic will take to the sys­tem eas­ily. “It’s like get­ting a restau­rant reser­va­tion, or get­ting a reser­va­tion for a camp­site,” she said.

To make sure motorists use the reser­va­tion sys­tem, there will be new park­ing re­stric­tions on the roads lead­ing to Muir Woods, par­tic­u­larly on Frank Val­ley road that runs to the park from Muir Beach.

Huge traf­fic messes on that road contributed to the need for the reser­va­tion sys­tem. On sum­mer days, cars parked all over the shoul­ders of the road, and vis­i­tors had to walk for miles up the road­side.

“It was very danger­ous,” Mon­roe said.

The so­lu­tion, how­ever, stirred up a storm, par­tic­u­larly from Marin res­i­dents who op­posed Park Ser­vice pro­pos­als for satel­lite park­ing lots on park land on the Panoramic High­way or along Frank Val­ley road. Plans for in­creased shut­tle bus ser­vice also met with ve­he­ment op­po­si­tion.

The fi­nal deal was worked out with the in­ter­ven­tion of Rep. Jared Huff­man, D-San Rafael, and is a bit of a com­pro­mise.

Among other things, the reser­va­tion sys­tem is an­tic­i­pated to cause a drop in the num­ber of vis­i­tors from 1.1 mil­lion to about 900,000 a year. But even with the lower num­bers, Muir Woods will draw more peo­ple ev­ery year than the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of San Fran­cisco — about 865,000 — or the num­ber of fans at Golden State War­riors games an­nu­ally — just over 803,000.

“We want to be sure that the pub­lic can en­joy and be in­spired by this red­wood for­est,” Mon­roe said, “At the same time, we have to pre­serve and pro­tect it. That is what the Na­tional Park Ser­vice is all about.”

Mon­roe has worked in Muir Woods as a ranger and su­per­vi­sor for nearly 40 years and is pas­sion­ate about the place. She talks about the tran­quil­lity of the for­est, where the trees are hun­dreds of years old, as well as Red­wood Creek, which runs through it.

“Muir Woods is one of the nat­u­ral wonders of the world,” she said.

The only other park in the re­gion that re­quires ad­vance reser­va­tions is Al­ca­traz Is­land, like Muir Woods, a unit of the Golden Gate Na­tional Recre­ation Area.

But the Muir Woods reser­va­tion sys­tem might be an ex­am­ple of things to come in other pop­u­lar na­tional parks — Yosemite, for in­stance.

“Ev­ery­one is watch­ing us,” Mon­roe said.

“You just can’t drop in any­more. It’s like get­ting a restau­rant reser­va­tion, or get­ting a reser­va­tion for a camp­site.” Mia Mon­roe, Na­tional Park Ser­vice pub­lic li­ai­son for Muir Woods

Michael Ma­cor / The Chron­i­cle

Vis­i­tors will pay to park at Muir Woods start­ing Tues­day, when the Na­tional Park Ser­vice be­gins re­quir­ing reser­va­tions at lots and on shut­tle buses.

Michael Ma­cor / The Chron­i­cle

Vis­i­tors will start pay­ing to park at Muir Woods, and there will be re­stric­tions on road­side park­ing, which is lim­ited.

Source: mar­in­tran­ John Blan­chard / The Chron­i­cle

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