Alcatraz Island to reopen Monday after being closed five months due to pandemic

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After being closed for the past five months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Alcatraz Island — one of Northern California’s top tourist draws — will reopen to the public on Monday, even though the Big House itself will remain padlocked.

The famed former maximum security federal prison in San Francisco Bay operated from 1934 to 1963, housing such hardened criminals as Al Capone (who played banjo in the inmate band, the Rock Islanders), George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. In normal times, it receives up to 1.7 million visitors a year.

But for now, touring “the Rock” will be an outdoor-only experience, to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. The cell blocks and other indoor areas of the historic penitentiary will remain closed. Ferry service, trails, gardens and other outdoor features of the island, along with a revised audio tour that has commentary from former prisoners and guards, and includes the outdoor features, will be available.

The move comes after the National Park Service, which owns Alcatraz, has been steadily reopening other national parks, including Yosemite, Muir Woods, Sequoia-Kings Canyon, Pinnacles and others, often with reduced visitation and closed visitor centers.

“This is a great opportunity. There will be fewer visitors on the island,” said Charles Strickfaden, a spokesman for the National Park Service. “It’s an opportunity to take a walk on the wild side at Alcatraz. There are thousands of nesting birds out there. There are amazing views. There’s a lot to do.”

Visitors, which normally reach about 5,000 to 6,000 people a day in the summer, will be limited to 750 a day, at least for now, he said.

After Muir Woods reopened last month, Alcatraz is one of the last parts of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to reopen. Fort Point, a Civil War-era fort at the southern edge of the Golden Gate, is likely to reopen next month, Strickfaden said.

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The indoor portions of Alcatraz, including the cell blocks, the theater and gift shop, will reopen when San Francisco city officials widen health rules to allow indoor museums across the city to reopen, he added.

Alcatraz Cruises, the private company that ferries visitors from Pier 33 in San Francisco to  Alcatraz Island, will offer five trips a day, on the hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the last boat returning at 4:40 p.m. Cost for the round-trip ride and park admission is the same as before: $39.90 for adults, $24.40 for kids younger than 12, $37.65 for seniors 62 and older, and free for kids 4 and under.

The company will require every passenger to wear a mask and have their temperature taken before getting on the boat. Anyone with a temperature above 100.4 Fahrenheit will be turned away. Masks are not required on the island, but are strongly encouraged, parks officials say.

What is there to see with the prison padlocked? The grounds of the 22-acre island will be open, including the historic Eagle Plaza, Recreation Yard, Sally Port and Rose Garden along with the East, …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News


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