New fees at local hotspot Marin Headlands

Kyler Wang

  The National Park Service announced on March 21st that they will begin charging $3 per hour for parking at the northwest commuter lot, a parking lot near the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Marin Headlands. This will start sometime in the next couple of years. The park service will also begin charging up to $16 for evening tours at the recently reopened Point Bonita lighthouse.

The Marin Headlands are part of a national park called the Golden Gate Recreational area. Julian Espinoza, the Public Affairs Specialist at the National Park Service spoke to the magnitude of this park.

“ [Golden Gate Recreational Area] is one of the most visited in the country, stretching across 82,000 acres from San Mateo county in the south, to Marin County in the north. Last year more than 13.7 million people visited [Golden Gate Recreational Area],” Espinoza said.

 Espinoza noted the high visitor traffic as the reason behind the new fees. 

“As a result of heavy visitation during the pandemic, many of our facilities have seen higher use than in the past, requiring increased staff time which will be funded through these fees. These funds will go towards park operations, such as trash collection and custodial services, also visitor protection including our ocean rescue program at Ocean Beach and our lifeguard program at Stinson Beach. We are also planning to use fee revenue for specific improvement projects, including the replacement of Stinson Beach lifeguard towers,” Espinoza said.

The new parking charges are the only way to avoid entrance fees at Golden Gate Recreational Area.

 “As part of our commitment to be open to all and never charge an entrance fee at any of our sites, we use parking fees as a last resort to fund our operations and services,” Espinoza said.

The Marin Headlands is a popular spot among Redwood students. According to a recent Bark survey, 50 percent of Redwood students visit the park at least once a month.  The parking fees being implemented could certainly make the Marin Headlands less of a go-to place for hiking and picturesque sunsets . 

Junior Lina Ibrahim says that she enjoys the pleasing views and scenery at Marin Headlands, exemplifying the attraction of the area that many others enjoy as well. 

“We’re really lucky to have places like [Marin Headlands] to visit,” said Ibrahim. 

While Ibrahim understands the need for funding at such a popular national park like Marin Headlands, she expresses that it makes Marin Headlands less accessible and convenient for locals, as well as Redwood students.

“I understand why [the park service is] doing it, but it is inconvenient. I just went last night, and I wanted to see the sunset so I drove through [Marin Headlands], and having to pay for parking could make it harder. It is not convenient for people who live here. ” Ibrahim said. 

Despite the new fees being implemented, the visitation to the park is not expected to decrease, according to Julian Espinoza.

Redwood Parent and Civil Engineer for the park service Melanie Wollenweber says that the Marin Headlands is an incredibly popular spot amongst local residents, including high school students. 

“The Marin Headlands attracts approximately 8 million visits per year from Bay Area residents alone. It is a gorgeous location that provides visitors a place to surf, hike, bike, visit the marine mammal center, former military and battery sites, bird watch, play at the beach and more,” Wollenweber said.