Gathered on both sides of Papermill Creek Sunday morning, 125 West Marin residents demonstrated their support for a pedestrian bridge at the site of the onetime irrigation dam for the Giacomini Ranch.

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Demonstrators including surfboarders, kayakers, several dogs, and people on opposite shores assemble for an Art Rogers photograph Sunday morning. A line over Papermill/Lagunitas Creek marks where the demonstrators want the Park Service to build a pedestrian bridge.

Originally a saltwater marsh, the ranchland was bought by the Giacomini family in 1944. Encouraged by the federal government (which wanted to increase wartime milk production) and subsidized under the Land Reclamation Act, the Giacominis built dikes surrounding the ranch to keep water from inundating their pastures at high tide. For half a century, the ranch prospered, but in 1998, the State Water Resources Control Board, stopped issuing permits for its seasonal irrigation dam.

In 2000, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area bought 550 acres of the ranch for $5.75 million. This Recreation Area land is being administered by the Point Reyes National Seashore, which last year began excavating it for a new marsh.

Even before the 550-acre sale eight years ago, the Giacomini family had sold more than 400 acres to public agencies, with Marin County Open Space District acquiring a slice of acreage just downstream from the Green Bridge. The acreage is bordered by the creek on the south and Point Reyes Station’s C Street on the north.

A footpath along the western edge of the county land from C Street to the dam site became popular for short walks.

Meanwhile, the County Open Space District — with assistance from the state — developed White House Pool park on the opposite bank. The park includes a scenic path along Papermill Creek from Inverness Park to the old dam site.

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Demonstrators on the south shore of Papermill Creek last Sunday said they want a bridge so that pedestrians and bicyclists, especially children, are not forced to travel along the shoulder of the 45 mph levee road when going between Inverness Park and Point Reyes Station.

Not surprisingly, many of those at Sunday’s pro-bridge demonstration were residents of Inverness Park.

As administers of the Recreation Area land, the Point Reyes National Seashore has said it will soon hold a public meeting to discuss the proposed bridge. At this point, loudest opponents to the proposal are ideologues who insist that once a new marsh is created, humans should not sully nature with a path and bridge.

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The new wetland will be located between downtown Point Reyes Station and downtown Inverness Park. The pathway above runs between the proposed bridge site and C Street in Point Reyes Station (seen in the background).

Folks, the land is not virgin terrain on either side of Papermill Creek below the Green Bridge. Not only has much of it been grazed for more than 50 years, humans have been reshaping it since at least 1855 when Samuel P. Taylor “built a warehouse at creekside for the paper he manufactured eight miles upstream,” to quote the late historian Jack Mason’s Earthquake Bay.

It was here the steamer Monterey deposited passengers Olema-bound.

A ferry crossed the creek here, Charlie Hall charging 25 cents one way per passenger. His bar, the Ferry House, was nearby to the south…. The county bridged the creek in 1875, the year the train came and the steamer pulled out.”

When the Park Service bought the Giacomini Ranch eight years ago, it’s stated goal was to create wetlands and thereby slow sedimentation of Tomales Bay and improve its overall environment. There was no mention of creating a wilderness area between the county firehouse and the Inverness Park Store. Remember, the former ranch is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the purpose of recreation areas is not to exclude humans.

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Demonstrators on Sunday morning walk along the scenic path from White House Pool to the site of the proposed bridge. The Point Reyes National Seashore a while back argued for the elimination of this route near the creek, I have been told by county staff. In the background is Inverness Park.

The National Seashore, which would have to pay for much of the bridge, is also opposing it. For a public park, it is amazing how misanthropic its policies are. A while back, the park tried to convince Marin County Open Space District to reroute the scenic White House Pool path so that it ran along the edge of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (the levee road) instead of along the creek. That way, nature would not be disturbed by humans walking through it. Fortunately, the county did not go along with the idea.

100_7022_1.jpgNow the National Seashore administration has raised a new objection. Even though the bridge would connect two rutted dirt paths, the park says it would have to be wheelchair accessible, and the requisite ramps for the eight-foot-wide bridge would double its length, making it 450 to 600 feet long. That’s more than twice the length of the Green Bridge and more than three times the length of Platform Bridge.

This Brooklyn Bridge over Papermill Creek — up to twice the length of a football field — would cost millions of dollars, the park says, and it is therefore unaffordable. I’m not buying any of it.

Here Joyce Goldfield of Inverness Park, who uses a motorized scooter to get around, takes part in the pro-bridge demonstration along with Duane Irving.