Small Changes, Big Challenges

Gardens are all about change – hopefully for the better, but they are never still. With any change, it can almost be expected to face challenges; and this is especially true when you are gardening on Alcatraz.

 

This week, the gardens saw the installation of a new pipe railing, albeit a pipe rail that was historically there, but had long ago disappeared. The Officers’ Row gardens, opened to the visitors on mid-day Wednesdays suddenly had the new addition seemingly overnight. The approval and installation of the pipe rail was the easy part; getting the pipe rail to the island proved to be the real challenge.

 

A Federal Prison era photo showing the Warden’s Irish setter sitting beside the railing. Photo courtesty of Chuck Stucker.

The pipe rail is evident in several photos from the Federal Penitentiary days, and with the obvious hazard, it was approved by the National Park Service review board fairly quickly.

 

The metal pipe rail was assembled off-site by Heavy Metal Iron and was planned to be brought to the island on an early morning boat. However, at the last moment, the 14’section was denied passage and another plan had to be drawn up. A second attempt was made. This time, the railing was scheduled to be on the early morning barge; but was hampered by the landing at Pier 33 being repaved. The third attempt took advantage of the monthly barge that sails out of Pier 50 and the railing was delivered safe and sound. Success!

 

Once the railing was on the island, it still had to be hauled up the switchbacks to the gardens. The guys had planned ahead and had brought a dolly to support the railing as they walked up the hill, and the exercise proved to be a good workout.

 

Hauling the metal pipe rail up the switchbacks. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

 

Installing the railing was pretty simple – coring the concrete to sink the posts, double checking that the railing was sitting level, filing the metal to have a snug fit and then a quick set mortar was used to hold the railing posts in place.

 

The crew had to bring all their own tools to place the railing, and be sure not to forget anything! Photo by Shelagh Fritz

 

The railing looks like it has always been there and I’m sure the seagulls will be happy to christen it when they return in February.

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