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The Green Life: The Rebels who Saved the Golden Gate

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April 18, 2014

The Rebels who Saved the Golden Gate

The Marin Headlands could have been home to MarincelloThe city of Marincello was to be built in the virtually untouched Marin Headlands. The area's natural beauty and proximity to San Francisco made it a no-brainer for suburban developers of the time, who had hoped to establish a planned community of 30,000 people. The project city had everything going for it — the rise of suburbia, big corporate sponsorships, and immense natural beauty — that is until it ran up against a nascent environmental movement that would stop the project in its tracks, saving the Headlands forever from development.

Rebels with a Cause tells the story of how a group of conservationists, politicians, ranchers, farmers, and volunteers spearheaded a campaign to block development projects like Marincello. Today, the planned city lies within the boundaries of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the most popular in the entire National Park Service.  The recreation area's existence is a direct result of the tireless work chronicled in Rebels with a Cause. Thanks to the efforts of those depicted in the film,  the only real remnant of Marincello is a mountain biking trail that follows what would have been the potential town's main boulevard.

"They were working against some behemoths, the biggest of which was Gulf Oil," said Kenji Yamamoto, the film's editor and co-producer. Formerly owned by the US military, Gulf Oil helped purchase a vast swath of land in the Headlands for the development. They weren't expecting a relentless effort to protect the land's natural beauty. "The campaigners always knew that it seemed impossible to battle against [Gulf Oil], but they kept on plugging away."

One of the most influential people in the fight against Marincello was Dr. Edgar Wayburn, a five-term president of the Sierra Club who was instrumental in the creation of Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore just to the north. Aside from the influence of Dr. Wayburn, the film also stresses the importance of local government in the fight against Marincello.

"With local government you can accomplish so much more of the groundwork," said Yamamoto. "Local support is key to winning any battle. It could be against a Wal-Mart or any company that wants to come into your community."

Yamamoto believes that the legacy of Golden Gate Recreation Area and the rebels' fight has been felt far beyond the San Francisco Bay Area. The film received an especially warm reception recently at a screening in Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Created in 2000 and just 20 minutes from Cleveland, the park has a similar urban proximity, and Yamamoto believes its creation was directly inspired by the fight for Golden Gate Recreation Area.

And Yamamoto hopes that Rebels has a similarly enduring legacy. The film has received a grant from Marin County that gives every school in the county a copy of the film and an accompanying readers' guide.

The film will be broadcast by American Public Television in tandem with Earth Week and Earth Month celebrations. Visit rebelsdocumentary.org for more info on the film.

--Image courtesy of iStockphoto/carterdayne

Callum Beals is an editorial intern at Sierra. He recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz where he studied history and literature. He enjoys hiking, camping, and waking up at ungodly hours to watch soccer games.

 

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