Beach Park is located on the south side of the San Rafael Canal. It is right on the water. Our neighborhood gets the best view of Beach Park from behind Montecito Shopping Center.
Beach Park was created in 1974 with palm trees, sand, bocce ball courts and parking nearby but, unfortunately, the City of San Rafael has completely neglected it and gave up on it. Its hidden location (you can only see it from Montecito) means that residents forget that it is there. It became a wasteland years ago.
Today it is scary to go there. There is drug use, drinking, littering, homeless camping with dogs, and human waste. There is no bathroom there. It would take a “Friends of Beach Park” Association to get the attention that it deserves.
According to Megan Hansen, in an article published in the Marin Independent Journal on September 3, 2014, “The owners of the Terrapin Crossroads restaurant and nightclub have complained that being next door to the park has given diners a view of activity that does little to promote waterfront dining.” Terrapin Crossroads is owned by former Grateful Dead musician Phil Lesh. They think it can improve park usage and alleviate its problems. To this end, the City of San Rafael is giving Terrapin a seven year lease of Beach Park which includes:
- leasing the park for commercial use by Terrapin Crossroads
- expanding their seating and performance area into the park
- giving the public seven free public events at the park per year (i.e.: concerts, movies in the park, kite festival, bocce ball tournaments on the refurbished bocce court)
- taking over maintenance and security of Beach Park. Terrapin Crossroads now has permission to build a new dock. (But you cannot drag a kayak or a canoe through the restaurant: there will be no “put in” access for boats.) Beach Park will be open to the public to view the boats at our popular annual San Rafael Lighted Boat Parade every December -- which is one of the largest lighted boat parades in the US.
According to Hansen’s article in the I.J., Terrapin Crossroads will pay $15,000 per year in rent to the City as part of the agreement. This loss of Beach Park is not without controversy. A letter submitted by the San Rafael Federation of Neighborhoods and printed in Hansen’s article said: “…public access is precious and shouldn't be given away. The tradeoff of a private entity cleaning up the park in exchange for controlling the essential functions of access, security, hours, food service and having numerous special events is a dubious public benefit." We have no neighborhood park in Montecito/ Happy Valley.
(The City considers San Rafael High School’s fields as our “park.” See note below.) Having said that, our neighbors are dedicated to protecting and preserving any piece of parkland we can, especially a waterfront park.
We have been working with the City and the Canal neighborhood to continue building the public waterfront trail around the Canal. But with houses, apartments and businesses on both side, and Trader Joes blocking the public trail with pallets, boxes, crates and trucks, you might not know the trail is there.
The view is worth it if you get there. Surf Sports 101 has welcomed the public and lets people “put in” their kayaks, canoes or SUPs (Stand Up Paddle) boards from their refurbished dock at no charge. I saw two otters swimming from their dock once.
The best place to view the canal is on a boat. Now is the time to focus on that area. They should make Beach Park the next step in constructing our waterfront public trail for people and their dogs to enjoy. We also think that the City should also do more for water access for kayaks and canoes and SUPs at Beach Park as it is the perfect water access location and has parking nearby.
Let’s just hope that leasing out Beach Park to Terrapin Crossroads will improve our beautiful waterfront and make Beach Park a place that people will want to go to on those seven days a year when there are public events.
Note about parks:
Did you know that the campus of San Rafael High School is open to the public during non-school hours? This has been confirmed by the San Rafael School District. If you would like to walk or run around the track, use the basketball hoops, etc., *when school is not in session*, you can go there (there is a gate on Mission Avenue that is usually open). This is for individuals and families only. Any organization wanting to have organized sports event on the campus must apply to the school district as usual.