National Park

Feds upgrade popular Marin Headlands trail through Marincello

  • Mill Valley’s Chris Prentiss walks down the Marincello Trail next to a sidewalk in the Tennessee Valley Recreation Area in Mill Valley, Calif., Wednesday, March 2, 2022. The sidewalk was built nearly five decades ago for the development of Marincello which was eventually discontinued. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

  • National Park Service-supervised construction continues on a new parking lot, asphalt pavement, and concrete walkways in the Tennessee Valley Recreation Area in Mill Valley, Calif., on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. ( Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

  • A 1964 model of Marincello, a proposed 2,100 acre development for the Marin Headlands. (provided by Golden Gate National Recreation Area)

  • National Park Service-supervised construction continues on a new parking lot, asphalt pavement, and concrete walkways in the Tennessee Valley Recreation Area in Mill Valley, Calif., on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. ( Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

  • ADA-compliant access to concrete walkways is part of National Park Service-supervised construction of a new parking lot and asphalt pavement in Tennessee’s Mill Valley Recreation Area , Calif., Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (Sherry LaVars/Independent Marine Journal)

  • Construction work overseen by the National Park Service continues on a new parking lot in the Tennessee Valley Recreation Area in Mill Valley, Calif., Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

  • People parked along the road walk on a dirt road entering and exiting the Tennessee Valley Recreation Area in Mill Valley, Calif., Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

  • Hikers walk past National Park Service supervised construction of a new parking lot in the Tennessee Valley Recreation Area in Mill Valley, Calif., Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

Fifty years ago, the sound of diggers moving dirt and trucks pouring concrete in the Tennessee Valley would have alarmed Marin County open space advocates.

But unlike the 1960s and 1970s, when developers saw the valley as a gateway to the planned town of Marincello in the Marin Headlands, construction crews working in the valley in recent weeks are instead improving an entry point. to one of the largest stretches of protected public land. to Marine.

“If it hadn’t been for the community involvement, this would be a gateway to Marincello and we would see condominiums and homes on the headlands of Marin instead of the open space we see today. ‘today,” National Park Service spokesman Charlie Strickfaden said.

Map of a Tennessee Valley trailhead and parking area paving project. (Source: Federal Highway Administration)

This project, led by the National Park Service and the Federal Highways Administration, aims to upgrade the popular Tennessee Valley Trailhead near Mill Valley with a first-ever paved parking lot. The trailhead will also include new amenities and safety upgrades such as bike racks; more accessible parking spaces for visitors with disabilities; sidewalks between parking areas and trailheads; and curbs to prevent erosion in certain areas.

The trailhead is visited by approximately 195,000 people per year and the previous 75-space parking lot is often full during peak seasons. The park department was unable to provide the number of parking spaces that will be available after construction. The lot is currently closed Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A federal project solicitation released last year showed the cost of the construction project ranged from $500,000 to $1.2 million. The park service was unable to provide information on the project’s estimated completion time, cost and funding source as of Thursday.

The trailhead is located right next to some of the remnants of the unfortunate Marincello. The concrete medians of the Marincello Boulevard project, which would have led cars into the community of 30,000, are now overgrown with shrubbery along a dirt trail now enjoyed by thousands of hikers and cyclists.

First conceptualized in the 1960s, Marincello’s plans were ultimately rejected after a six-year battle by residents, open space advocates, environmentalists and political representatives. The land was eventually acquired by the Nature Conservancy in a $6.5 million deal, then transferred to the National Park Service in 1972 to become part of the new Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The 82,000-acre park in Marin and San Francisco has become one of the most visited national parks in the country.

San Francisco’s Amy Meyer was a key player in the grassroots movement that led to the creation of the new urban national park, but said ‘the people of Marin made all the difference’ when it came to to defeat Marinello.

“It was the far-sighted folks at Marin, the Marin Conservation League, Margot Patterson Dawes, Huey Johnson and the Board of Supervisors who all recognized that we could do something much better than Marincello,” Meyer said.

Nona Dennis, former president of the Marin Conservation League who was among the opponents of the Marincello, praised the improvements to the Tennessee Valley Trailhead, calling it “a great way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Recreation Area.” of the Golden Gate”.

“This is probably the most popular and accessible starting point for walkers of all ages, family groups, people from all over the Bay Area, cyclists, riders from nearby stables (everyone except dog walkers) on the headlands of Marin,” Dennis wrote in an email. “Remains of the old gateway to Marincello still stand, further marking the victory of public lands over massive development. It’s a nice 4 mile round trip walk to the ever popular beach.”

Mill Valley’s Chris Prentiss is one of 15 million people who now use the Golden Gate National Recreation Area each year. Instead of biking on Marincello Boulevard alongside a stream of cars on Wednesday, Prentiss was riding on an open dirt road off the Marincello Trail.

“I think this protected land is pretty important to the community that we have,” Prentiss said. “I passed a group of hikers and cyclists and everyone. It’s a land we all enjoy and that makes Mill Valley and Marin quite special.