The number of visitors to Muir Woods National Monument is on the upswing, in part due to a new movie that shows apes swinging from the park's majestic redwoods.
But even before the release of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" early this month -- which has prompted an influx of curious tourists -- park officials were charting a jump in visitation.
They said there were more than half a dozen days this summer, before release of the popular movie, that the total number of park visitors topped 5,000 a day -- a level that had been common before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"It may have been because after 9/11 less people were traveling, and there was also the dot-com bust around that time," said Mia Monroe, Muir Woods superintendent.
After 9/11, 4,000 visitors was considered a busy day, but there were many days when attendance was below that. The park typically attracts about 750,000 people a year.
Until this summer, there hadn't been a 5,000-visitor day the previous two years.
"We think it may be because people are staying at home for vacations and taking more local trips," Monroe said. "Gas prices may also be an issue."
And now, this month, there is the Hollywood factor.
"Visitors have told me they have come to Muir Woods because they saw it in the movie," Monroe said.
The movie includes a scene in which apes run amok on the Golden Gate Bridge and escape to Muir Woods. Monroe said filming for
Real Muir Woods or not, the result has been tourists packing the Muir Woods shuttle, apparently to see where the apes went, officials reported Monday.
Lauren Gradia, finance chief of the Marin County Transit District, said the shuttle is carrying an average of 200 more passengers a day on weekends this month than it did last month, before the movie was released Aug. 5. More than 1,300 people have been climbing aboard on Saturdays since the film hit theaters across the nation, Gradia said.
"I think I'll see the movie," she added.
"Thank you, Hollywood!" said Supervisor Susan Adams, as officials were told about the surge in passengers Monday by transit chief David Rzepinski, who reported people standing in line for a shuttle are saying they want to see Muir Woods because of the movie.
While amused, Supervisor Steve Kinsey said it's time to charge more for trips aboard the shuttle in order to "reduce our local subsidy," especially if tourists are paying the freight. A round trip on the shuttle costs passengers only $3, about half of what it costs county taxpayers, "and they get there and pay five bucks for a cup of coffee" at Muir Woods, the supervisor said.
"Shuttles in the world of transit are unsustainable ... some of the most expensive (buses) in our portfolio," he added.
Adams said she supported boosting the Muir Woods shuttle fare, but noted the shuttle provides an important service to the disabled and elderly.
To see more of The Marin Independent Journal or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.marinij.com/.
(c) 2011, The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.