A landscape can hold many stories not immediately apparent to the casual visitor, even a thoroughly enchanted one. In January 1973, I came to the Bay Area from back East to visit a friend who had recently moved here. On a warm sunny day (unlike any winter day this East Coast boy was used to!) I was driven across the Golden Gate Bridge, around Mount Tam, past Muir Beach and Stinson Beach, and out to Point Reyes. The beauty of the place was stunning, and the sheer extent of it—all this wide open space so close to San Francisco—was a revelation. I moved here eight months later, and it has been my home ever since.
At the time I was blissfully unaware of the fact that the wild, lonely beach at Limantour, where I spent that delightfully cosmic midwinter afternoon, had only recently been saved from becoming a beach-home development. (On the trail between the beach and the estuary, you can still find a few of the home sites where clearing and drilling had begun.) And I certainly had no idea that only six years earlier, citizen opposition had halted construction of a small city of 30,000 people in the green hills of the nearby Marin Headlands. In fact, it wasn’t until a few months ago, when Bay Nature decided to do an article on the Headlands, that I learned the strange story of Marincello.
And that tells me we’re in danger of taking our open space legacy for granted, and of losing the stories of the inspired people—like Marty Rosen (see interview on page 5)—who fought the developments at Limantour and the Headlands and bequeathed us these precious gifts. Try to imagine the hills across the Golden Gate from San Francisco covered with houses instead of coastal scrub. I lived for 18 years in New York and Boston, surrounded by vistas of buildings and roads, where trips to “the country” involved an hour or more in the car. I survived, as many still do. But to live surrounded by accessible open space, as we do here, can spark an expansiveness of mind and spirit, and imbue us with the knowledge that we don’t have to settle for living cut off from the natural world.
With summer here, the long hours of daylight give us the opportunity to venture out after work to a nearby park and absorb some of the untold stories from the landscape. Watch the incoming fog swallow the setting sun, pull on a sweater, and listen to the evening bird chorus echo through the surrounding trees. If we’re going to continue this privileged experiment of a dynamic and diverse human society living alongside dynamic and diverse natural communities, we will have to carry on with the efforts of the people who worked and played hard to keep parts of the Bay Area wild, and keep telling their stories and the stories of the land itself.
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Veteran environmental activist, writer, editor, publisher, educator, and coastal wetlands scientist Phyllis Faber has made countless contributions to the Bay Area environmental movement.