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"Environmental" cabins in Marin.

Overlooking a sandy beach and the pounding Pacific, 10 rustic cabins sit on a rocky coastal point 20 miles northwest of San Francisco. If you're a whale-watcher, stargazer, or beachcomber wanting to rough it in comfort up to seven nights, you can rent one for just $12 per night at the new Steep Ravine Environmental Campground.

Now part of Mount Tamalpais State Park, the cabins were built at the base of Steep Ravine Canyon in the 1940s by a Marin landowner, William Kent, Jr., who leased them to Bay Area families. In 1960, the state acquired the land and they became the focal point of controversy between leaseholders and the state.

Their future unresolved, the structures fell into a sorry state and were threatened with destruction until the park restored them in 1980. Each building received a new roof and interior; woodstoves, tables, and sleeping platforms were installed, and steps and paths built. On April 1, 1984, 10 of the 14 original cabins (some were beyond repair) were included in the state environmental campground system.

The cabins perch on the steep cliffs of appropriately named Rocky Point. On clear days, you'll get outstanding views of the Farallon Islands, Stinson Beach (only 1 mile north on State 1), Bolinas, and Duxbury Point.

Staying in an "environmental" cabin means you provide bedding, a lantern (there's no electricity), cooking equipment, and a water carrier. The woodstove will keep you toasty and your food hot (bring your own firewood or purchase it for $2 a bundle at the site). Each has a barbecue; shared pit toilets and water spigots are nearby.

The cabins are available year-round. They sleep up to eight people, but parking is restricted to one vehicle per cabin. Six walk-in environmental campsites are nearby; fee is $6 per night.

Cabin and campsite reservations ($2.25 processing fee) are highly recommended, particularly during summer. For an application, write to the Reservation Office, Department of Parks and Recreation, Box 2390, Sacramento 95811. In California, call (800) 952-5580; outside the state, call (916) 323-2988. Reservation requests may be sent up to nine weeks in advance; allow up to three weeks for return to mail.

Canceled cabins and campsites are occasionally available on a first-come basis.

The Pantol Ranger Station on Mount Tamalpais has information on such vacancies; call (415) 388-2070.

ALTHOUGH THE AREA IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, road access is restricted to overnighters. From U.S. 101, take the Mill Valley/ Stinson Beach exit and follow State 1 for 11 miles to the Steep Ravine Environmental Campground turnoff and the locked gate (you'll receive the lock combination with your reservation). The road winds for 1/2 mile to the cabins, campsites, and beach.
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Date:Jul 1, 1984
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