As the clock wound down on Drakes Bay Oyster Co. operations Friday there was no word if the business would mount a legal challenge to a federal decision that forced it to shut down operations.

Meanwhile, many familiar with the oyster operation are voicing their outrage over the decision by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to let the longstanding Marin business' operating permit expire Friday, returning Drakes Estero to wilderness.

The original 40-year lease with the Johnson's Oyster Co. in 1972 was signed with a provision that the 2,200-acre estero would become a wilderness when it expired Friday. Drakes Bay owner Kevin Lunny took over the lease in 2004 and believed there was a provision to extend it.

He said after the Thursday decision was made that he was speaking with advisers about legal steps, but had yet to make a decisions. Lunny could not be reached for comment Friday.

On Friday, workers had to face the prospect they would be without jobs as the operation closed at 4:30 p.m.

"It's like the death of an old-timer, it's almost like a wake," said Scott Yancy, a manger at Drakes Bay. "It's sad to know that this business will never be here again. You are reminded that life isn't fair, even when you do everything right."

Yancy said he and his co-workers spirits have been lifted by the reaction of the local community.

"The love and support we have received from them is great," said Yancy, a Point Reyes


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resident who is not sure how he will pay his bills as his job ends. "People have been super."

Others have voiced anger at the federal government for shutting down the operation.

"When I woke up this morning I had about a dozen e-mails from a lot of unhappy people who were very upset with the decision," said Supervisor Steve Kinsey, whose district encompasses the oyster operation. "The decision didn't give any time for transition planning, it seems insensitive. I'm crushed for the workers and for the Lunnys."

Many people also wrote to the Independent Journal to register their dismay.

"This is really tragic news," wrote Jim Robinson of San Anselmo. "One of the gems of Marin County has now been taken away for the so called sake of the environment while the environmentalist drive their SUVs with the 'Keep Tahoe Blue' bumper stickers placarded on the vehicles. This county is full of hypocrisy and this is truly a travesty."

Wrote Rich Banakus of Novato: "While I firmly believe in protecting the environment, extremists such as the Sierra Club leave little room for rational solutions that counter their major premise." He added, "it is sad to imagine how many other people will be affected by this narrow-minded decision. Local restaurants, small grocery stores and other support businesses will likely suffer and perhaps close as a result."

The expressions also came from outside the county.

"I was deeply saddened by this story," wrote Maggie Passarelli of Redwood City. "Seeing a small business like this forced to shut down is truly heartbreaking."

An informal poll on the Independent Journal website www.marinij.com has 84 percent of people opposing the closure.

The oyster company will have to remove its personal property from the lands and waters within 90 days. Salazar has asked the National Park Service to help the employees who are affected by the decision, including assisting with relocation, employment opportunities and training.

Drakes Estero has been in commercial oyster production for nearly 100 years.

Samuel Loy said as a young adult living at Stinson Beach with my wife and two sons his family made many a trip up to Point Reyes for oysters.

"I feel this is another case of someone with little or no knowledge of the oyster farm, its employees and its customers making a political decision," wrote Loy, who lived in Marin for more than 40 years before moving to Mesa, Ariz. "I feel that this closing is just another case of "Big Brother" knowing or seeming to know what is best for us."