Stow Lake boathouse closes up shop

September 5, 2011 7:20:36 PM PDT
A familiar attraction at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park is going away and a lot of people are not happy about it, but the city insists, in this case, change will be good. It is the price of progress.

How about a good, long, last look at the past? Although, if you haven't done so by now, it's already too late.

"It's a good memory, OK?" Melba Maikin told ABC7. And, that is why she took one final ride with her family around Stow Lake Monday. The paddle boats, the boat house, and the snack bar are all about to disappear, in their current form, anyway.

"Well, today is our last day for operation. Tomorrow, we start packing," boathouse manager Jeff Fones said Monday.

After 68 years with one local franchisee, San Francisco's Department of Recreation and Parks will bring a new operator in from out of state. As Recreation and Parks describes it, this is a win-win for the city. There will be new boats, a better boathouse, and $230,000 in improvements.

So, why aren't locals buying it?

"There are a lot of us in San Francisco. I talked to a lot of people that are like furious about this," Susan Percal said. "It doesn't seem to add up, why we're not being listened to."

"I think we need to stick with businesses that are small businesses and locally owned," Felicia Schonborn said.

They say they will miss the time capsule feeling of this operation. However, Recreation and Parks cites what it calls the disrepair on boats and on dry rot in the building. In an email Monday, the city said it has an obligation to protect and preserve resources.

"The bottom line, they know, is their bottom line," Percal said.

"We offered more money. We offered more boats for the public. We offered a full-scale kitchen. We offered to do all the renovations, painting the building, do all the necessary renovations that the building needs. But then, we still lost. I don't understand that," Fones said.

So, even with a lawsuit pending, this is the end, at least for now. Fones says he will lose his job. Downstairs, David Mairs, who rents the only bikes in Golden Gate Park, will lose his too.

The city says it will be better.

"I doubt it," Mairs said. "We'll see, but I doubt it... Not better for me."

The old boathouse at Stow Lake is not going gently.

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