View Full Version : Mare Island visit

John Kasaian
8-Jan-2016, 20:05
Since Pt Lobos was closed, my son an I visited Mare Island next to Vallejo, CA.
Quite a bit has changed since the last time I was there. A lot of new tenants and it looked like a new boat was under construction in one of the granite dry docks! The new museum is well worth a visit but you can no longer drive to the cemetery as the road has been blocked off by the Nature Preserve, however the cemetery is a very short walk past the closure. Four of the Russian sailors killed while assisting during the Earth Quake received new head stones decorated with what look like St. Andrews Cross flags---perhaps these are Russian Navy Jacks? I'm not up on my flags :o

The causeway was blocked to Eastbound traffic so we left over the bridge and had a nice lunch at the Sardine Can at the marina, next to the Coast Guard station. All in all a rewarding day:cool:

William Whitaker
8-Jan-2016, 21:08
I miss the Sardine Can. They used to have a good cioppino. It's been a long time since I was there.

9-Jan-2016, 19:32
I was just there golfing a few weeks ago. Haven't set foot there since around 1980 when I was assigned there for a few weeks while in the Navy.

karl french
9-Jan-2016, 19:36
Point Lobos was closed?

John Kasaian
9-Jan-2016, 22:28
Point Lobos was closed?

The storm. It was supposed to re-open today.

Drew Wiley
11-Jan-2016, 09:22
I had one calm warm afternoon out there two weeks ago, and got around the preserve area, which also contains the cemetery. As far as the old shipyard is concerned, a lot of it is closed off by high chain-link fences due to hazmat issues; so I've taken to a strategy of "seeing over" fences by simply backing way off
and using very long lenses. But actually, I've spent more time this winter printing Mare Island negs (among other places) than actually going out there. Got some nice ones. Hopefully the City of Vallejo won't get talked into building a giant casino out there and totally ruining the ambiance as well personal safety of the place. It's one area you can still walk around without worry, at least compared to parts of Vallejo itself, which has been a wretchedly mismanaged city - exactly the type of city that tries to saves it woes by resorting to a superficial quick-fix like gambling, which always becomes an economic drain in the long run. But the Navy, Army, as well as State of Calif still has formal control of most of the Island, since these are the interests which have borne the burden of the cleanup.
Seems like qauint ruins now, even though I once knew many people who worked there; and our company here sold many millions of dollars of supplies there
each year. Now it's rich in photographic opportunities. Pt Molate should come next - its cleanup is progressing well.

Geary Lyons
31-Mar-2016, 09:01
My SF Bay Area LF meet-up group shot on the Island two weeks ago. Yes, much is now fenced off or rudely "off limits" (Tuoro University, the old hospital). But the Island still offers a rich palette of potential images, especially if you like industrial decay. I miss the early days when you could pretty much roam where you wanted.


Drew Wiley
31-Mar-2016, 09:41
Nothing is "rudely" off limits. There are sections which are downright hazardous due to chromium, lead, PCB's, or even radioactive contaminants which still need to be kept in isolation. Some are budgeted for state cleanup, others for Navy hazmat funding, still others by the army. Some buildings might need to be perpetually closed. All this can takes decades and hundreds of millions of dollars. The worst threat to the Island is the city of Vallejo's plans to build a casino on it. Fortunately,
the other players there have pushed back on that idea. What I've personally done to get certain shots of fenced-off buildings is to either back off or get up a hill
a little and use very long lenses, namely either a 450C on my 4x5 or a 300EDIF on my P67. And while certain old Victorian residences are slowly being restored
with due hazmat concerns, and might eventually open to the public, quite a bit has already been done to open up more trails on the end of the island past the
cemetery and atop the hill itself. It's a good effort despite the fact the city of Vallejo has been a mismanaged mess in recent years and can't be expected to
contribute anything serious financially. I looked at the little railroad station for sale and thought to myself, what a nice gallery that would make.... But then,
being in the business I am, also instantly recognized it would take ten to twenty million private dollars just to do the hazmat on that single little building and
its parking lot. Anything railroad-owned and even the soil itself has to be replaced. Full of nasties. Plus layer after layer of peeling lead-based paint all over the
walls. You need big public budgets for that kind of heavy lifting. A bit of away, Pt Molate is further ahead in its restoration, and those buildings are on schedule
to reopen to the public in only two or three more years. The fact the military is funding it, and has it well fenced and patrolled, means that the tagger graffiti
idiots haven't gotten in there to ruin it all. I remember selling five dollar a square foot Cassegranian quarter-sawn walnut "wallpaper" for the little admiral's
quarters there, maybe thirty years ago. The Navy could waste money like crazy. But all those little row houses have been kept as is, complete with vintage
appliances and furniture, just like a movie set. Once in awhile they'll arrange tours to organized and supervised photo groups, but those are clumsy scenarios for
more methodical view camera users, so I pass them up, and will just wait till the buildings are formally open to the public.

Drew Wiley
31-Mar-2016, 09:43
(Sorry if I repeated some things from a previous post)

Geary Lyons
31-Mar-2016, 10:16
Nothing is "rudely" off limits....

Really? Perhaps the security guards at Touro University didn't get the memo?


Drew Wiley
31-Mar-2016, 10:38
Get real. Remember, that island once employed thousands of people. It got mothballed on a personal vendetta/ political reprisal decision. Can't go into that, even
though its decades old history by now, suffice to say I know a lot of people who lost jobs, and then a titanic mess was left behind. Given all that history, it's downright remarkable how different public and private concerns have gotten together to preserve the island for public use. And that necessitates a certain amount
of private leases for both commercial, educational, and remaining govt usages. And they have the right to their own space and security arrangements, just like
anywhere else. Or would you prefer meth labs and gang graffiti everywhere instead? Even a tad of an art colony is sprouting, along with three little museums.

Geary Lyons
31-Mar-2016, 11:19
Get real....

The Touro University private security guards were rude. Simple fact, based on my personal, first hand, experience. I avoid that particular property. I was shooting from the gutter at a point across the street, away from the old hospital. They "demanded" that I "move along" as photography was "not allowed". Others have voiced similar experiences. That is real! I can't imagine why that fact set off the non sequitur rants.


Drew Wiley
31-Mar-2016, 11:36
OK. I understand. I only go out there on the weekend when almost nobody is around, and have never personally had any issue anywhere. If you were not on their grounds per se, and shooting from a valid public access area, then complain to the brass at Touro. There are distinct signs where their own parking lot begins. I haven't shot any of their buildings yet, but have had fiddled with various camera at length contemplating shots aimed right at them. Have had official Mare Island police patrols ignore me completely on several such occasions. Just remember who private security guards are - mostly people who can't get a better job or might even have a felony histories themselves, so tend to be not particularly bright. Otherwise, if it were me I'd meticulously follow all unwritten rules and simply cultivate the friendship and permission of someone on staff inside the school. I wouldn't gauge their own attitude by how some minimum-wage leased guards behave. As more restricted areas do get partially open to the public, you want all the Brownie points you can get in places like Mare Island,
but you also have to respect that some of this is still either military or private housing that can only be restored by leasing it out to well-heeled nonprofits or
educational concerns. Gosh, I'm salivating at the thought of getting to some of those already restored Victorians which still have hazmat issues on their general
grounds or roadways. A step at a time. But I'd be scared to actually live out there. Some pretty weird things are still showing up in the water lines.

Kevin Crisp
31-Mar-2016, 12:53
Since a felony conviction would prevent you from getting a "guard card" in California, as will many misdemeanors, I don't think you need to be concerned about that. And I hate to think what percentage of the population "can't get a better job" at the moment. I can't think of a reason a security guard would normally be dumber than anyone else at the same pay scale.

Drew Wiley
31-Mar-2016, 13:51
Guess you don't know how the system works. Security films routinely recruit ex-cons. Sometimes ex-cops go in that business themselves, and work with the prisons in advance of releases. I worked places where I was more scared on the security guard doing something crazier than an armed robber entering the place.
These are not desirable jobs. Stand on your feet for hours on end, bored as heck, horrible pay and hours... steal something maybe.

Kevin Crisp
31-Mar-2016, 15:00
Actually I do very much know "how the system works," having represented contract security providers for decades. Firms don't recruit "cons" since they can't get guard cards. Some retired LE do go into the business.

31-Mar-2016, 15:05
I never heard of Mare Island. Guess I should Google it.

Drew Wiley
31-Mar-2016, 15:49
SF Bay is obviously one of the most important ports in the world. We had four major Naval facilities, all of which were axed in the 70's as punishment for us having a conspicuous "lefty" representative whom an ex-movie star had a long grudge against. So a replacement shipyard got opened in Mississippi, which had a more politically correct ethos, where ships were built but could never reach the ocean, so there sit rusting till this day! Our tax dollars at work. Now fast forward. One site was on the little island of Alameda, another over at Hunter's Point area in SF along with Treasure Island, and the most industrialized one of all on Mare Island across the canal from the city of Vallejo, plus the Pt Molate Naval Fuel Depot which still exists, although all the building were mothballed, including the last whaling station in North America, along with the world's biggest winery, which was taken over by the Navy during WWII. So here's all this emptied land adjacent to extremely valuable urban real estate. Lots of ideas, but also massive hazardous waste which requires serious federal budgets to deal
with. But lots of entrepreneurs and developers wanted in on the action. Of course, all of us being "lefties" out here, "we" all wanted provisions for cute co-ops,
start-ups, and sustainable art colonies. The first area that got cleaned up was Alameda. But then Ellison moves in with his grandiose dreams for the America's
Cup, and once that is over, no artist this side of the planet Jupiter could afford a lease there ever again. Just more yacht berths for billionaires. Hunter's Point
is being eyed by sports venues and multimillion-dollar condo developers, with a token bicycle trail or two. Pt Molate will become a permanent public museum
and shoreline area. That pretty much leaves Mare Island as the next frontier of starving artists, most of whom are already so poisoned by lead and cadmium
pigments that they won't even notice it when they glow in the dark too. But it is a quiet safe place to casually walk around photographing post-military stuff in
various stages of restoration or outright demise, with some working industrial activity still, a lovely Naval cemetery, etc. I rarely go there compared to some
photographers, even though it's only about a twenty minute drive for me. Not enough hills to work out my knees on. But every now and then I get a hankering
to shoot something there.

Geary Lyons
31-Mar-2016, 16:17
SF Bay is obviously one of the most important ports in the world. We had four major Naval facilities...

Don't forget the Concord Naval Weapons Station, 5,046-acres of mostly below ground or berm bunkers! Low toxic mitigation and few buildings with which to deal. As one might expect, the City of Concord has let incompetence, greed and graft create a SNAFU Royale on the development plan.


Drew Wiley
31-Mar-2016, 16:30
There is some talk about that being opened up to the East Bay Regional Parks trail system. The bunkers are apparently empty, and elk are sometimes in the fields.
I drove past there last Sat on my way to a ridge hike near Diablo. There are also a lot of water district properties being opened up, though one has to have a special permit. I'd like to see a ridge trail all the way from there to Sunol. Seems some of the sections are already being acquired. But bypassing Calavaras Res
and potentially clear down past Mt Hamilton and Henry Cowell will have to await completion of the new Calavaras Dam project and formal permission from SF
Water District. Some gorgeous slopes behind there, covered with wild pansies in mid-Spring.