Alcatraz ferry from Fort Mason?

Prime waterfront also object of new design competition
Aerial view of Fort Mason Center (photo: robert campbell)

The National Park Service (NPS), which controls operations at both the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Alcatraz Island, may consider connecting the two by ferry.

Planning staff from the NPS recently met with the Marina Community Association (MCA) to discuss their plans to move the existing Alcatraz ferry operations from its current location in Fisherman’s Wharf. The 10-year contract with Hornblower Cruises and Events – operating as Alcatraz Cruises – ends in 2016 and the NPS is looking for a permanent location to set up ferry service when a new contract is put out to bid.

In addition to ferry terminal operations, the NPS wants to create a companion on-land Alcatraz experience with the creation of a visitor center, store or museum to complement the island tour, according to the information provided by the MCA. Alcatraz Cruises notes on its website that more than 1.3 million visitors travel to Alcatraz Island each year from Pier 33.

One site being considered for the new ferry terminal is Fort Mason. Additional ferry service from Fort Mason to Sausalito or Fort Baker on the Marin side of the bay may also be considered.

Three other sites mentioned for permanent ferry operations are Fisherman’s Wharf piers 31½, 41½, and 43½.

To begin the planning process, the NPS will be holding two public scoping meetings in June to hear comments on their proposed plans and note any issues or concerns the public may have. They will be looking for input on the range of alternatives needed, the nature and extent of potential environmental impacts, and any appropriate mitigation strategies that should be addressed in the planning process.

The NPS had no information available online for the proposed project at press time, but the Marina Community Association was given this website address for upcoming information: www.parkplanning.nps.gov/alcatrazferry.

The first public scoping meeting is scheduled for June 26 in San Francisco from 4:30–6:30 p.m. at Upper Fort Mason, Building 201. A second scoping meeting will be held on June 28 in Sausalito from 5:30–7:30 pm at Sausalito City Hall (420 Litho Street).

The timeline currently proposed for the Alcatraz ferry project includes:

  • June 2012 – Public and agency scoping
  • Fall–Winter 2012 – Develop-ment of alternatives and analysis of impacts
  • Fall 2013 – Draft EIS available for public review and comment
  • Fall 2014 – Final EIS available
  • Fall 2014 – Record of decision

Fort Mason Center was already in the spotlight last month with its announcement of a design competition to re-envision its underused spaces, most notably the vacant Pier One building and the site’s outdoor spaces, including the 437-space parking lot and 3,500 linear feet of bay frontage. Invitations were sent to a pre-selected group of 20 firms from across the country and around the world. Interested firms will be narrowed down to three finalists who will be asked to prepare their proposed designs for a public presentation in mid-October.

One of the elements requested in the design scenarios is “improved connections to, and viewing of, San Francisco Bay.” No mention is made of whether ferries should be included as a part of this theme.

The jury selecting the finalists, and ultimately the winner of the competition, includes local landscape architects Andrea Cochran and Bonnie Fisher; Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan; Mark Buell, chair of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and president of the S.F. Recreation and Parks Commission; and Frank Dean, superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

There are no funds available at this time to implement any design that may be selected, however.

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