Tourists and day-trippers headed out on a brilliant, sunny Tuesday to see parks and monuments in and around San Francisco, but the expected panoramas were obscured for thousands by beltway politics and a sign that said “closed.”
“It’s quite a shock,” said Emil Labossiere, 49, of British Columbia, who went to Muir Woods National Monument with his wife, Karen Irvine, to celebrate their 20th anniversary only to be told the park was closed. “We weren’t quite aware of what was going on.”
The shutdown has forced closure of national park entrances, visitor centers, campgrounds, bathrooms, concession stands, and other park facilities. It means that the 77,500-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the second most visited park in the nation behind the Blue Ridge Parkway, is off limits.
That includes the 1,250 structures at the Marin Headlands, Muir Woods, Alcatraz Island, the Cliff House, Fort Point and the Presidio of San Francisco. Education programs and special events have been canceled, permits issued for special activities rescinded, hotels and campgrounds emptied and entrances secured.
All of this because of politics, said Markus Trick, a tourist from Stuttgart, Germany, who planned to spend the day with his new wife Yvonne celebrating their honeymoon at Muir Woods.
The politicians “are a bit like kids,” he said. “If they don’t want to accept the way things are, they cry and cry and cry. It’s not going to ruin our vacation, but it is frustrating. It’s the same all over the world. They call it democracy and then a few people just go ahead and do what they want.”
A steady stream of cars, recreational vehicles, taxi cabs and vans full of tourists were stopped at the Muir Woods gates Tuesday. Most people took the news with a shrug and a smile, but others were upset.
“I think it’s disgusting,” said Susan Kozakoff, who with her husband, Dimitri, had successfully visited all the national parks between their home in Billings, Montana and San Francisco until the streak ended at Muir Woods. “This is an inconvenience and I’m originally from New York so I’m used to inconvenience, but this should not happen with a government as big and powerful as ours.”
Many tourists made the best of it, including some who parked outside of the designated parking lots and entered the federal parks anyway.
Regine Brugger, of Switzerland, snapped pictures of her three children on a busy pier at Crissy Field, where the Golden Gate Bridge served as the backdrop. They might have stopped at the Warming Hut Cafe & Bookstore, but it was closed because of the government shutdown.
The Bruggers were among the many tourists who learned Tuesday that tours to Alcatraz had abruptly stopped and they would not be able to see the famous island prison, which is now owned by the National Park Service.
“We bought tickets yesterday,” said Brugger, who biked with her family around the Presidio after they were turned away from the planned 10 a.m. Alcatraz tour.
She found it peculiar that the federal government was shutting down services due to a fight over universal health care.
“For us, this is strange. For us, it’s normal for everyone to have the right to the best medicine,” she said.
Brugger said the family’s upcoming trips could also be in jeopardy.
“We are going to some parks in Southern California and then to the Grand Canyon,” she said. “We really hope everything is open.”
At the Crissy Field pier,
Martin Ngo noticed the lighter crowds while fishing — and also saw some fishermen taking advantage of the lack of oversight.
“There are no rangers out,” Ngo said. “There are a lot of people crabbing more than they should. There is no one to regulate it.”
Nearby, Noel Bautista filled buckets of rock crab as tourists hovered around for a glimpse of his catches.
“We throw back the Dungeness crab, like we are supposed to,” Bautista said. “We love to eat crab.”
Peter Fimrite and Melody Gutierrez are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. E-mail email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org ___