Alcatraz Island

Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments

Published August 2010


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(PDF, 2.2 MB, 16 pages)

Most Americans are familiar with Alcatraz Island as the former court-mandated “home” of infamous criminals such as Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. They might not realize that before it housed a prison, the island was used by the military during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. In addition, the island was the site of a 19-month American Indian occupation that commenced in November 1969. Alcatraz Island become part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1972, and it opened to the public the following year.

NPCA’s Center for State of the Parks recently completed an assessment of the condition of Alcatraz Island’s cultural resources, as well as an overview of the population status and management of the island’s western gulls.

The Park Service faces challenges caring for the cultural and natural resources of this nationally significant site. Wind, humidity, and sea air are speeding the deterioration of historic structures and artifacts, but maintenance and rehabilitation projects are expensive. In addition, a number of surveys and planning documents are needed to ensure resources are documented and appropriately treated.

The island is an important nesting area for various seabirds and waterbirds, including western gulls and Brandt’s cormorants. Finding ways to maintain the island’s cultural landscapes, provide a safe and enjoyable visitor experience, and protect nesting birds and their habitat is a major challenge.

The Park Service, often with the help of partners such as the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, is making strides is protecting and restoring its cultural landscapes and studying its nesting bird populations.

Read the full report to learn more about the challenges the Park Service faces in caring for Alcatraz Island’s cultural and natural resources, as well as the work being done to protect those resources into the future.

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