The nonprofit that supports the Golden Gate National Recreation Area says it will lay off more than a quarter of its staff, or about 108 employees, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Like much of the tourism sector, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy has been forced to scale back operations, which include running tours and visitor centers at such popular spots as Alcatraz, Muir Woods and the Marin Headlands. The reductions have cut deep into the organization’s budget.
As a result, the organization is facing hard decisions about what programs, from education to ecological restoration to facility improvements, it can afford to continue across the recreation area’s 84,000 acres of Bay Area lands. About a third of the staff was temporarily cut over the summer, and now the conservancy says many of those furloughs will become permanent, effective Dec. 31.
“This year has been tough for everyone, there’s no way around it,” Christine Lehnertz, the organization’s president and CEO, said in an emailed statement to The Chronicle.
The 400-person conservancy been a partner with the National Park Service since 1981. Last year alone, the group estimates that it rallied thousands of volunteers and contributed $47 million worth of services to GGNRA.
The recreation area, which consists of a constellation of park sites from San Mateo County to Marin County, is one of the busiest properties in the National Park Service. In 2019, the area counted 15 million visits.
The conservancy operates the GGNRA’s visitor centers and shops, and conducts a wide range of programs in the park, from building trails in the Presidio to bringing school groups to Hawk Hill to restoring habitat for coho salmon in Muir Woods.
One of the group’s most lucrative services is providing self-guided audio tours at Alcatraz, which have ceased since the cellhouse closed with the pandemic. Along with sales of merchandise, the tours account for nearly 60% of the conservancy’s revenues.
The organization estimates that its annual operating budget of about $55 million will be less than half that next fiscal year.
The Presidio Trust, which manages most of the GGNRA’s Presidio, has also been hit hard by the pandemic. Earlier this year, the agency laid off about 20% of its 350 employees. The trust is financially dependent on leases with housing and businesses in the Presidio, including restaurants and inns, which have struggled this year.