The Unknown Alcatraz

Having local Bay Area residents visit Alcatraz is a pretty rare occurrence, and when it does happen, it is usually when they have out-of-town visitors in tow. Very seldom do locals take the 10-minute ferry ride out on the Bay to see their closest National Park.

 

But this is changing.

 

Obscura Society, hosts ‘unusual adventures for curious minds’, specializes in tours with unusual access, secret places and unknown history. The Gardens of Alcatraz definitely matches all of these criteria.

 

Annetta, from the Obscura Society, and her group came out this past Sunday for a tour of the gardens and then pitched in for a couple hours of volunteering.

The group was excited to work clearing the historic lawn, when they learned of the long-term plan of making it into a meadow.

 

The energetic group met me at Pier 33 and it was easy to tell it was going to be a fun afternoon. The group, many of whom were meeting for the first time, all had shared interests of history, plants and doing something different.

 

Beginning the tour at the dock, the group was asked the question “What do you think of when you hear the word Alcatraz”? The group spoke up with descriptive words of ‘prison’, ‘island’, ‘Al Capone’, ‘cold’; but no one said ‘gardens’, the very reason that they were there.

 

The hour and a half walking tour led the group through all areas of the gardens, including two closed areas, and finished on the west side of the island in the Prisoner Gardens. As we walked through the gardens, a group member really understood the importance of passing along family stories from one generation to the next, sharing with me how she asked her grandfather to tell her about his past before he sadly passed away. This sharing of history is part of what we are doing on the island – passing along stories.

 

Timely, the island’s Alumni Day is this coming Saturday, August 11; when past residents of the island come back and share with visitors their experiences and what life was really like on the Rock.

 

If you cannot make it to the island this Saturday, plan on checking out what you can learn about your own neighborhood, or even better, ask your grandparents to tell you a story.

 

 

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