STATEMENT OF JACQUELINE LOWEY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION, AND RECREATION, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, REGARDING S. 2051, A BILL TO REVISE THE BOUNDARIES OF GOLDEN GATE NATIONAL RECREATION AREA.
JUNE 29, 2000
Thank you for the opportunity to present the position of the Department of the Interior on S. 2051, a bill to revise the boundaries of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Department of the Interior supports this bill with amendments discussed in this testimony.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) was created in 1972 to protect important natural and cultural resources in the San Francisco Area. The park is located in three California counties, San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo, and is one of the largest urban national parks in the world, encompassing 76,500 acres of land and water. Its size is reflective of the quantity and quality of natural and cultural resources that exist in the San Francisco area. Congress created this park in 1972 to ensure that people in the primarily urban Bay Area would only be minutes away from experiencing the values of these splendid resources.
S. 2051 would expand the boundaries of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area by adding 20 parcels of land totaling 1,216 acres. Most of this land, over 1,057 acres, is located in San Mateo County. Approximately 157 acres of this land are in Marin County, and approximately 3 acres are located in San Francisco.
We anticipate that a significant number of these tracts would be acquired by donation, representing more than one half of their estimated value. Funding for the purchase of other tracts would be subject to the availability of appropriations and NPS priorities. These proposals are intended to correct imperfections in the park’s original boundaries and do not represent significant new management obligations. The addition of this land will contribute to the purpose for which the park was created and will help the park’s staff to more effectively carry out their responsibilities as defined by approved plans and policies.
San Mateo County
The San Mateo County additions are proposed in accordance with a 1998 boundary study that was authorized by an act of Congress. The study found that 15 tracts of land, ranging in size from a few acres up to several hundred acres, and totaling 1,057 acres,
met the criteria established by the NPS for additions of lands to units of the National Park System. The additions will preserve significant natural and scenic resources and provide additional recreational opportunities. A boundary that is more logical, recognizable and easier to manage will be established.
These lands are logical additions to the San Mateo County portion of GGNRA. This part of the park, south of San Francisco, has a varied topography, consisting of magnificent coastal bluffs, with ridges that run inland to steep canyons. In several locations, the park's boundary in San Mateo runs along a ridge line, just inland from the coast. Most of the lands that would be added to the park are contiguous to this boundary, and in several places would link the hills within the park to the coast, enhancing recreational opportunities for park visitors, and protecting important resources.
While most of the land is contiguous to existing park land, these additional parcels are not all contiguous to one another. One of the parcels to be added is at San Pedro Point, at the southern end of the San Mateo portion of GGNRA, several of the parcels are adjacent to Mori Ridge and Sweeny Ridge, in the central part of the San Mateo portion of GGNRA, and some parcels are adjacent to Milagra Ridge, in the northern part of the San Mateo portion of GGNRA.
In studying these and other potential boundary adjustments, the National Park Service applies criteria that include an evaluation of whether the added lands will be feasible to administer considering size, configuration, ownership, costs, and other factors. In the case of these San Mateo properties, the tracts appear on a map to be a "patchwork" rather than a neatly drawn line. However, the NPS boundary study confirmed that these lands were feasible for us to administer and that their configuration was based on careful consideration of topographic features. The lines for the proposed additions also were drawn to exclude areas that were already developed and include the remnant open spaces that were consistent with the purposes of the park. Parks such as Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Gateway National Recreation Area, and Chattahoochie River National Recreation Area have boundaries that were developed as a result of similar considerations.
The Pacifica City Council passed a resolution in 1998 endorsing the addition of these lands to the park. Numerous community groups also support the permanent protection of these natural areas.
Marin County is located north of the city of San Francisco. The land to be added to GGNRA in Marin County consists of three parcels, totaling 157 acres. This land is now threatened with development, which county officials have acted vigorously to avert. The proposal to add these lands to the park was initiated by the President of the Marin County Board of Supervisors. A draft feasibility study has determined that this land meets the criteria for inclusion into the park. The draft study is presently in the administrative review process.
The draft study states that this land exhibits resources of the same quality as adjacent parklands and currently separates the park from Marin City, one of the few ethnically and racially diverse communities in the county. This land is within easy walking distance of a federally owned public housing development. Not only would this addition reduce the visual and physical threat of urban encroachment and improve non-automobile access to the park, but it will also significantly enhance the potential to fulfill the park’s mandate to serve under-represented populations. To further the goal of adding these lands to the park, the Marin County Open Space District in partnership with the Trust for Public Land and the Marin Community Foundation purchased the largest of the three parcels (94 acres) in October of 1999 for $2.35 million. The smallest parcel (10.71 acres) was recently sold, and has been under the threat of residential development. The remaining 52-acre parcel is on the market.
The language of the 1980 legislation that expanded the park boundary near the Cliff House in San Francisco prohibited the Park Service from acquiring a 1.6-acre parcel at the base of historic Sutro Heights Park. This created a confusing situation because the revised boundary clearly surrounded the prohibited tract. Conceived during the legislative process to facilitate a development proposal that never happened, this prohibition is obsolete. The City of San Francisco now owns the property and has expressed the desire to donate it to the National Park Service. We are asking that the prohibition be rescinded to allow the Park Service to accept the property. Doing so will permanently protect the visual integrity of one of the park’s most popular ocean viewpoints.
The other San Francisco property covered by this bill is located at the southwest corner of the Presidio of San Francisco. During a 1997 storm event, a major sewer failure caused the total collapse of a residence bordering Lobos Creek. The property has been acquired by the City of San Francisco and cleared of all development. Adjacent landowners and the American Land Conservancy have expressed an interest in acquiring the property and donating it to the park. Strong local sentiment has been expressed against rebuilding on the property and in favor of adding it to the park. This proposed addition is a rare opportunity to increase our ability to protect and enhance Lobos Creek. The creek is a unique ecological resource as well as the primary source of drinking water for the Presidio. Residential development borders this bank of Lobos Creek and any opportunity to lessen this encroachment should be seized. S. 2051 would bring this property within the boundary of the park.
The final sentence of S. 2051 states "All transactions concerning the Golden Gate National Recreation Area shall involve willing sellers and willing buyers." We believe this sentence should either be deleted or amended. While the National Park Service has no intention or desire to compel the sale of property, we believe it is important to have this authority available, as it can be used for the benefit of a landowner, such as in matters of clearing up title to a property, and for tax purposes. In any event, if this language is to remain in the bill, it needs to be amended to ensure that it does not affect other aspects of operations at GGNRA. As written, the language would apply to "all transactions" at GGNRA, not just property sales. If implemented, this language could have an effect on concessions contracts, Memorandums of Understanding, and other transactions entered into by the National Park Service, to further the mission of GGNRA. As this result is clearly not intended, we propose amending the language of the bill by deleting the final sentence, and inserting after the word "land" on page 2, line 2, the clause: "which may only be acquired from willing sellers, as". The resulting amendment would read "The recreation area shall also include the land, which may only be acquired from willing sellers, as generally depicted on the map entitled ' Additions to Golden Gate National Recreation Area', numbered NPS-80,073 and dated January, 2000/PWR-PLRPC."
This concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any of your questions.