Shuttle Service at Point Reyes Headlands for Winter 1998
Contact: John Dell'Osso, 415-464-5135
Superintendent Don Neubacher announced today a shuttle program will be in operation this winter to reduce congestion and protect critical park resources on the Point Reyes Headlands. The fee shuttle system will be initiated on December 27 and run through April, 1998. The shuttle system will be implemented to provide timely access to the Point Reyes Headlands during the upcoming gray whale migration, elephant seal breeding and pupping season, and the spectacular wildflower displays in early spring. Last year, during peak times, visitors had to wait up to three hours for the road to be available due to traffic congestion.
"The Point Reyes Headlands provide spectacular scenic views and are home to a large number of rare and endangered plants and animals. Limiting the number of vehicles will help protect these resources and enhance the quality of the visitor experience by reducing automobile noise and congestion," stated Superintendent Neubacher.
From January through March, several spectacular natural history events occur, drawing tens of thousands of visitors to the Point Reyes Headlands. First, the annual migration of the gray whale from Alaska to Mexico brings these giant leviathans past the Point Reyes Lighthouse. During the peak of the southern migration, in mid-January, as many as 150 whales have been seen in one day. Their return trip in March coincides with the peak of the our coastal wildflowers providing visitors the opportunity to see both whales and wildflowers along the magnificent Headlands.
A third dramatic event occurs as the elephant seals come to shore to breed and pup during this same time period. Last year, over 300 pups were born along the Point Reyes Headlands, and their total population at Point Reyes is estimated to be 1,500 animals! This colony has populated the Chimney Rock area and presents an easily accessible vantage point to witness the sparring of the bull seals and the birth of the young.
The fee for riding on a 47-passenger bus from Drakes Beach parking lot will be $2.50 per adult, with children under 12 riding free. The buses are tentatively scheduled to depart Drakes Beach parking lot around 9:00 am on weekends and holidays, and continue every 15 minutes until the last bus leaves the Lighthouse at approximately 5:00 pm. This mandatory system will help alleviate traffic congestion along the Headlands where waits of nearly 3 hours were commonplace on weekends from January through March. Visitors are always encouraged to come out on the weekdays when the road will be open to the public. Visitors who do not wish to ride the shuttle can watch the gray whale migration from Tomales Point, and South and North Beach areas.
As part of the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program authorized by Congress, parks are allowed to collect new, or increased fees, from 1997 through 1999 and the revenues can be spent before 2002. Each park, like Point Reyes National Seashore, that participates in the program will be allowed to keep 80% of all new fees collected; the remaining 20% from new fees will be deposited in a special account for visitor service improvements in other park units.
In February 1997, Point Reyes National Seashore tested the proposed shuttle system and provided three large passenger buses to transport visitors from the large parking lot at Drakes Beach to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock areas. The shuttle system received favorable comments from the public. On that day, nearly 1,000 people were shuttled, with never more than a 15 minute wait. The proposed shuttle system has also been discussed at various public meetings and modified after hearing public concerns.
To help reduce costs this first year, the National Park Service has received a grant from Chevron USA of $10,000 to ensure sufficent staff and buses are available for timely public transport.