Archive for April, 2012

Through June 30, the Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History in Inverness is exhibiting an “historical view” of Inverness Park. Although the Census Bureau and the Postal Service lump the town in with Point Reyes Station, Inverness Park is far older.

Much of the area was once owned by Rafael Garcia, who in 1836 was issued a Mexican land grant for three square miles at Bolinas. In 1843, he moved his ranch further north so that his brother-in-law Gregorio Briones could have the land in Bolinas. Mexican authorities subsequently granted Garcia “judicial possession” of his new holdings.

However, in 1860, two lawyers from Vermont, Oscar and James Shafter, claimed that 9,000 acres of Garcia’s northern holdings actually belonged to them. They argued that they had acquired adjacent holdings which supposedly included Garcia’s land. The dispute, of course, went to court, and after six years of intense litigation, Garcia’s ownership was finally upheld on Feb. 21, 1866.

“Whatever joy it gave Rafael Garcia was short lived,” the late historian Jack Mason wrote in his book Point Reyes the Solemn Land. “Within 10 days, the old man was dead, his inquisition over.” He was 74.

A water tank at White House Pool collapsed in the 1906 earthquake.

Somewhat surprisingly, Garcia descendants had once operated a dairy where the county parking lot for White House Pool is today. There was also a second dairy in Inverness Park.

The Lockhart family operated Pinecrest Dairy near the top of Balboa Avenue (where it turns into Drakes Summit Road) until 1961. The dairy, which is across the street from the former St. Eugene’s Hermitage, is now occupied by Doug and Margaret Moore. The dairy barn is still intact but not visible from the road.

The center of Inverness Park has always been its grocery stores. This is how the first store, which also sold gasoline, looked after it was remodeled in the 1930s.

In the 1920s, Michael and Filomina Lucchesi Alberigi “bought about five acres on the marsh side of Inverness Park and moved into a large home there,” the museum publication Under the Gables reports. “They built barns behind the house. They grew vegetables and eventually used a small house next to their home as a general store. Later it also had a small café and became the social hub of the village.”

In 1949, the Alberigi family leased the old store to Annie and Victor Turkan to run while the Turkans built a larger store across the street.

This is the cover photo of the Spring 2012 issue of Under the Gables, which is devoted to the Inverness Park exhibit. Here’s what the new store, which would become Perry’s Deli, looked like in its early days.

“After the Turkans retired, their daughter Wilma Van Peer — who lived next door in what is now Spirit Matters and had the first television set in Inverness Park — ran it,” Under the Gables notes.

“In the 1960s, Vern and Diane Mendenhall bought it from Van Peer and expanded it to include a diner made out of a railway car. Greg (last name unknown for now) bought it from the Mendenhalls and later sold it to Bill and Irene Keener. The Keeners sold it to Dan Thompson over 30 years ago.

“In the early 1970s, the diner was a pizzeria. It then became a succession of bakeries under various names and owners: Foggy Mountain Bakery run by Mountain Girl (Jerry Garcia’s first wife) with Kate Gatov and Irene Keener; Kate sold out to the Keeners, and it was briefly known as Bill’s Bakery; [Station House Café founder] Pat Healy for a brief time; Knave of Hearts Bakery run by Matthew and Robin Prebluda; Debra’s French Bakery (Debra had partners with Brigit Devlin in starting the Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station); and now the Busy Bee Bakery.”

The old store, which the Turkans closed after their new store opened, became ranchworker housing for the neighboring Giacomini dairy.

Eventually, however, it  fell into disrepair (as can  be seen at right).

By then, the federal government owned the site.

The National Park Service tore the old building down in 2007 and in 2011 erected a kiosk where it had been.

The kiosk (at left), is across Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from Perry’s Deli.

It provides information on the Park Service’s efforts to return the Giacomini ranch to wetlands.

It also displays minutes of an Inverness Park Association meeting a year ago when the kiosk was discussed. The National Park Service, president Donna Larken noted, had said its work on the kiosk was done although benches (visible above) in the kiosk had not yet been installed.

Another bit of Inverness Park history that has also disappeared is the California Trout Farm.

It was built in 1910 on Fish Hatchery Creek (next to Portola Avenue) and had a contract to supply the California Department of Fish and Game with trout. Individual fishermen could also come to catch and barbecue their fish.

The hatchery closed during the Great Depression but was revived and restocked in 1949.

In the foreground are Rose Alberigi and her daughter Edna with an unidentified boy during the early days of the hatchery.

The revived trout farm didn’t last long, and its concrete ponds were torn down in the 1950s. “There is part of one pond left, but it may be from an even earlier operation,” Under the Gables explains.

The Inverness Park photographic exhibit at the museum was in large part organized by Meg Linden with photos drawn from several collections. The museum is open whenever the Inverness Library, which shares its building, is open: Monday from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Wednesday 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

County Supervisor Steve Kinsey Sunday afternoon sat down with West Marin Citizen reporter Lynn Axelrod and me on the bleachers of Nicasio Square’s ballfield and at my request described his grueling schedule. As Kinsey related:

• He began Sunday morning dealing with correspondence from Supervisor Susan Adams and the county administrator.

• At noon he met in Bolinas with part of his “campaign team.”

• From 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. Kinsey met with the East Shore Planning Group in Marshall to discuss pending changes to the Coastal Plan.

• At 2:45 p.m. he was interviewed by Lynn and me.

• From 5 to 7 p.m. he would be at a campaign fundraiser in the San Geronimo Valley.

Supervisor Kinsey at the Will Lafranchi Ballfield in Nicasio Square.

Kinsey said that although campaigning makes his tight schedule even tighter, he generally needs to work nonstop anyway. A county website says that besides his being the president of the Marin County Board of Supervisors, Kinsey is an appointed member of 28 public commissions and committees.

He is the chairman or president of 13 of them. Kinsey said he gets so many “leadership positions” because “I work hard.” The committees and commissions range from the California Coastal Commission, to the Marin County Open Space District, where he is president of the board of directors, to the Marin County Transit District, where he is also president of the board.

Among his other responsibilities, Kinsey is chairman of the county Flood Control District, serves on the Labor Relations Committee, and is chairman of the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee.

Not only does he attend endless public meetings, he appears in many parades and other public events in his district. He spends time helping nonprofits like the Dance Palace raise funds. He goes to funerals and memorial services. He takes part in dedicating public facilities.

Would he describe what all this requires? Kinsey responded by reading his schedule from the past week.

Monday

• 8 a.m. Transit District meeting.

• 10 a.m. Meeting with the general manager of the transit district.

• 11 a.m. Meeting with Marshall dairyman Albert Straus, who is interested in moving the dairy’s processing facility from Petaluma back to West Marin.

• Noon. Meeting with county staff regarding the Coastal Commission.

• 1 p.m. Meeting with the county grand jury regarding the county budget. The supervisors’ budget hearings were about to begin.

• 2 p.m. County Transit Authority meeting.

4:30 to 6 p.m. A campaign fundraiser.

• 7:30 p.m. An air quality meeting in the San Geronimo Valley regarding woodsmoke.

Tuesday

• Kinsey flies to Ventura County for a three-day Coastal Commission meeting.

Friday

• 8:30 p.m. Gets back home and writes a guest editorial for The Marin Independent Journal.

Saturday

• Early morning meeting in Bolinas to discuss configuring two parcels of land so they can’t be subdivided and will permanently remain in open space.

• 11:15 a.m. to noon. Interviewed on KWMR.

• 1 to 3 p.m. Attended a funeral in Novato for Chuck Bennett.

• 3:30 p.m. Went to his office in Civic Center, which he had been away from for five days because of the Coastal Commission meeting.

• 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Attended a campaign committee meeting.

I personally couldn’t handle a job like his, I said. “It’s not a job,” Kinsey joked. “It’s a lifestyle.” He added, “I haven’t had a big, fat vacation [in 16 years].” How does his wife Jean feel about his crushing schedule? “After my first two terms in office,” he laughed, “she said she’d never vote for me again. But she’s adjusted and gives me the room [to do what the office requires].”

One of the main requirements, Kinsey noted, is dealing with the 60 to 100 email messages he receives daily. The supervisor said he writes replies to all messages from his constituents, so he must spend one to two hours a day handling email.

Kinsey, 59, of Forest Knolls has lived in West Marin for 35 years although his biography on county website says 22. It also says that Kinsey’s 27-year-old son Breeze is 15.

Kinsey’s Fourth Supervisorial District includes, along with West Marin, western Novato, part of San Rafael, part of Larkspur (including San Quentin Village), part of Mill Valley, and all of Corte Madera. His opponent Diane Furst is vice mayor of Corte Madera, where she is in her first term on the city council. Furst has lived in Marin County for eight years.

Kinsey’s main criticism of Furst is that she lives in East Marin and lacks his familiarity with West Marin issues. If she were to be elected, West Marin would have no representation on the Board of Superviors, he stressed. It would also lose its representation on the Coastal Commission.

He added that his knowledge of West Marin issues, as well as other issues that county government deals with, has in large part been acquired during his 16 years in office.

In describing how connected he feels “to this place,” Kinsey said, “I’ve never been interested in higher — or as [the late State Senator] Peter Behr called it, ‘farther’ — office.”

Kinsey had taken part in a number of civic groups before first running for the Board of Supervisors in 1996, the county website reports. For example, he had been chairman of the Marin Conservation League Water Committee from 1989 to 1996 and received two awards from the League in 1992.

His original decision to run for the Board of Supervisors was not made quickly. “I wore a ponytail for years so people wouldn’t ask me to run for office,” he said with a chuckle. Yet here he is after four terms in office, clean-cut and running for a fifth.

If he is reelected, Kinsey told The Independent Journal, his goals will include county “pension reform, county workforce organization, reorganizing wastewater management, reduction of the county’s carbon footprint, improvements in transit and trail networks, and expansion of renewable energy and agriculture.”

Agriculture in West Marin faces many challenges. In the Point Reyes National Seashore, a mushrooming herd of tule elk is the most recent, reporter Axelrod noted. I asked how committed Kinsey is to keeping the ranches in the park operating. “One hundred percent,” the supervisor emphatically replied.

Kinsey himself faces some challenges going into the June 5 election. Although 85 percent of his supervisorial district lies in West Marin, where many of his most-active supporters live, 70 percent of the district’s voters live in East Marin. At the moment, organizing support over the hill is a focus of his campaign.

The posting that follows is not a history of the North Pacific Coast Railroad or its successors, the North Shore Railroad and the Northwestern Pacific. Rather it consists of a few glimpses of the wondrous line as it evolved over 58 years and then for the most part faded away.

More than half the towns in West Marin grew up along the tracks of the North Pacific Coast narrow-gauge railroad. In 1875, the line opened between the Sausalito ferry terminal and Tomales by way of Point Reyes Station. Soon it was extended to Cazadero’s logging camps.

The narrow gauge makes a morning stop in Lagunitas around 1915. By then, the tracks east of Manor (now part of Fairfax) had been converted to standard gauge with an electrified third rail powering the locomotives.

In order for trains to travel between the San Geronimo Valley and Manor, the narrow gauge required two tunnels to get through Whites Hill: “a small one at the bottom behind White Hill School and the longer one at the top, which passed directly under the current [Sir Francis Drake Boulevard] pass,” historian Dewey Livingston of Inverness told me.

These were replaced in 1904 by the Bothin Tunnel on the south side of Woodacre. The Bothin Tunnel was sized to accommodate standard-gauge railroad cars, which in 1920 took over the stretch from Point Reyes Station east to Manor.

After the standard gauge shut down in 1933, the Bothin Tunnel remained open — primarily for fire engines from the county fire department in Woodacre en route to fires in East Marin. After many years, however, the Bothin Tunnel was closed by a fire and cave-in, Livingston added.

A northbound train crosses the Point Reyes Station trestle.

A particularly wretched part of the line was this trestle over Papermill Creek immediately east of Point Reyes Station. A sharp curve in the tracks just west of the creek was followed by a reverse curve on the trestle itself.

On June 21, 1903, one of the worst wrecks in the railroad’s history occurred at the trestle.

A special train had been chartered to carry friends of Warren Dutton, a founder of Tomales, to the town for his funeral. Returning southbound, the train, which had been traveling fairly fast all the way from Tomales, crossed the trestle a little too fast.

The engine and its coach fell off the trestle and landed upside down, killing two passengers. Four other passengers and the conductor were badly injured. Just three days later, another train ran off the tracks in nearby Tocaloma, crushing the engineer beneath the cab.

Three years later, the Point Reyes Station trestle experienced more misfortune when it was severely twisted (left) by the 1906 earthquake.

The trestle, however, was quickly repaired.

Similar damage occurred in Tomales and along the railroad bed beside Tomales Bay.

As the late railroad historian Bray Dickinson of Tomales noted in his 1967 book Narrow Gauge to the Redwoods, “Anticipating a big summer business, the narrow gauge company intended to start a new schedule on the day of the earthquake.

“The San Francisco morning newspapers — never delivered because of the catastrophe — carried the North Shore timetable which provided a record four passenger trains daily to Cazadero and two additional locals for Point Reyes Station.”

In Tomales, the quake caused a hillside to collapse, tangling the tracks.

In the railroad’s early days, Tomales was the most prosperous West Marin stop, and nearby hamlets were also bustling places. Here a giant round of cheese awaits being picked up in 1894 at the train platform in Fallon.

In the 1890s, Engine 13 wrecked at Clark Summit just north of Fallon. The site is now part of Clark Summit Farm, an organic beef, pig, and chicken operation owned by Liz Cunninghame and her husband Dan Bagley.

Nowadays, most motorists on Highway 1 south of Tomales are familiar with these steel piers, which once held up a trestle spanning Keys Creek.

Far fewer people, however, have any idea how the trestle looked when it carried trains. In fact, remnants of the old railroad provide only a hint of the grand system it was.

For motorists heading north on Highway 1 from Point Reyes Station, the first turnout where they can stop and view Tomales Bay overlooks what was once a commercial area known as Bivalve. This long-gone oyster building was Bivalve’s dominant structure.

 

North of Bivalve, the old railroad bed along the shore is barely discernible these days.

In railroad days, however, this approach to Bivalve was a scenic part of the trip.

South of Bivalve, the railroad bed skirted a small lagoon as it crossed to Railroad Point on Martinelli property.

I know the spot well, for the late Sheriff’s Capt. Art Disterheft and I were once kayaking in the lagoon when we discovered we were virtually trapped by a strong incoming tide through the entrance channel (foreground at right).

We finally escaped by paddling frantically only to then hear someone on the turnout above us laughing loudly at our predicament.

The photo at right of a southbound train leaving Bivalve en route to Railroad Point was shot in June 1906. “This was two months after the great earthquake, which badly damaged this section of line along Tomales Bay,” Dickinson noted.

“Repairs had been rapidly made and regular trains were running over the entire line within three weeks. Uneven track ahead of Engine 3 marks quake damage.”

Although the tracks heading east from Point Reyes Station were converted to standard gauge in 1920, the tracks north of town remained narrow gauge. In 1930, the narrow-gauge section shut down, and in 1933, the standard-gauge section did too.

Much of the material for this posting comes from Dickinson’s book Narrow Gauge to the Redwoods. Anyone who lives in West Marin and is interested in its history should have a copy. The book was edited by historian Ted Wurm, who died in 2004, while most of its photos are from the late Roy Graves’ collection.

In attempting to justify not renewing in September Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s permit to operate in the Point Reyes National Seashore, park staff falsified scientific data. Fortunately, the Inspector General’s Office of the Interior Department uncovered many of the misrepresentations by National Seashore staff, and in 2008 it issued a report that chronicled them.

Yet Park Service employees are doing it again, as US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) complained to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (right) last Thursday.

This is the senator’s letter to the Interior Department, which administers the Park Service:

Dear Secretary Salazar,

The Park Service’s latest falsification of science at Point Reyes National Seashore is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The Park Service presented charts of noise measurements in its draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) that appear to irrefutably establish that oyster boats at Drakes Bay disturb the pastoral quiet of the nearby wilderness.

Here is the problem: the noise did not come from oyster boats, nor did it come from anywhere near Drakes Estero or Point Reyes National Seashore. Amazingly, the decibel recordings the Park Service attributed to Drakes Bay oyster boats came from jet skis in New Jersey 17 years ago.

Entrance and picnic area for Drakes Bay Oyster Company.

I am frankly stunned that after all the controversy over past abuse of science on this issue, Park Service employees would feel emboldened to once again fabricate the science in building a case against the oyster farm. I can only attribute this conduct to an unwavering bias against the oyster farm and historic ranches.

My attention was drawn to the Seashore when I fought to extend local ranching leases from five to 10 years so there would be sufficient investment and time for the farmers and ranchers to not only operate viable businesses, but to perform environmental improvements. Despite efforts to comply, the ranches and oyster farm have been subject to repeated mistreatment that is unbecoming of your department.

The Park Service has falsified and misrepresented data, hidden science, and even promoted employees who knew about the falsehoods, all in an effort to advance a predetermined outcome against the oyster farm. Using 17-year-old data from New Jersey jet skis as documentation of noise from oyster boat engines in the estuary is incomprehensible.

It is my belief that the case against Drakes Bay Oyster Company is deceptive and potentially fraudulent.

Senator Feinstein at left.

The Park Service’s conduct is a serious breach of trust with the farming and ranching community at Point Reyes National Seashore. The ranchers are concerned that if Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s permit is not renewed, they will be next. I share that concern.

I firmly believe that renewal of the permit is the only way for the Park Service to send an unmistakeable signal that the Administration’s commitment to scientific integrity is real and that repeated misrepresentations of the scientific record to advance employees’ personal agendas will not be tolerated. I also believe that renewal of the permit is the only way for the Park Service to begin to repair the trust of the Seashore’s ranching and farming community.

I look to you to bring resolution to this very serious matter.

Sincerely, Dianne Feinstein, United States Senator