MARTINEZ -- The public is invited to comment on accessibility to the Muir family grave site in the Alhambra Valley, near John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez.
Access had been very restricted to the historic orchard and serene landscape established by the Muir and Strentzel families.
The U.S. National Park Service will hold a workshop Saturday on management strategies for the site.
John Muir's wife, Louie (Louisa) was a daughter of Dr. John Strentzel, a horticulturist and fruit rancher who built the Victorian residence that became Muir's home in Martinez.
Congressional legislation authorizing acquisition of the property includes the intent of public access, as well as preservation and the impact on neighbors is being considered.
"We are trying to find a balance," said Sue Fritzeke, park service deputy superintendent.
John Muir's descriptions and drawings of unspoiled nature that he discovered during cross-country walks instilled a love of nature in others and made him famous as an early conservationist. Muir is credited with convincing President Theodore Roosevelt to help establish a national park system in the United States.
The Muir-Hanna Family Trust sold the family's 1.27 acre grave site parcel to the American Land Conservancy after Congress voted to include it in the boundary of John Muir National Historic Site. The park service acquired the property when funds became available in 2000.
The grave site parcel has been cleaned up and fenced, and now park managers are working on long-term plans for its use.
Muir descendant Michael Muir noted that it is fitting to have this discussion about the grave site in the 100th anniversary year of John Muir's death in 1914.
A six-person park service planning team held two previous meetings to gather ideas from the public and develop draft alternatives which will be presented at the Feb. 22 meeting, according to Fritzeke.
In general, the draft plans range from doing nothing to allowing guided walks and possibly an annual event. However, Fritzeke was quick to emphasize that park officials do not have any predetermined concept in mind.
"We want public input," she said. "Because it is a family grave site, it is a place that needs to involve a certain amount of respect and reverence with anything that is done there."
The nonprofit John Muir Memorial Association helps support the historic site. It was organized in 1956 to preserve the John Muir home and grave site, to assure its transfer to the National Park Service, and continues to promote the legacy that is reflected in his writings.
Association treasurer Mary Ann Gaebe said, "We have not discussed it as an official policy, but we believe that public access is important."
John Muir and at least six other family members are buried at the grave site property.
"We have a large family and I can't speak for all of them, but I would be an advocate for access with limits. There is a way to access that special place," Michael Muir said. "It needs to be a quiet contemplative place and the neighbors have to be considered. That being said, John Muir was a man of the people and his life was about access to special places."
Contact Dana Guzzetti at email@example.com or call 925-202-9292.
WHAT: National Park Service public comment workshop on plans for the historic Muir/Strentzel grave site park property
WHEN: 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, Feb. 22
WHERE: John Swett Elementary School multipurpose room, 4955 Alhambra Valley Road.