Marine Mammal Center unveils new Bay Area facility

 
LA Times | Travel
 

What: A chance to see injured marine animals healing at a fancy new facility in Marin County. Where: The Marine Mammal Center, 2000 Bunker Road, Ft. Cronkhite, Sausalito, in the Marin Headlands just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco (415-289-7325, www.marinemammalcenter.org). ...


By Christopher Reynolds // 06.19.09
 

What: A chance to see injured marine animals healing at a fancy new facility in Marin County.

Where: The Marine Mammal Center, 2000 Bunker Road, Ft. Cronkhite, Sausalito, in the Marin Headlands just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco (415-289-7325, www.marinemammalcenter.org).

How much: Zip.

The mammal center, which has rescued and treated sea animals for more than 30 years, has unveiled a new medical facility, research lab and public-education area at a former Nike missile site -- and it's open to visitors.

On Monday, June 15, the facility made its debut with 86 California sea lions, 41 Pacific harbor seals and 14 northern elephant seals.

Outfitted with glass walls, educational displays and viewing platforms, and open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, the area gives visitors a peek into the workings of an animal rehabilitation program, including food preparation, pools for animals under treatment and the (optional) postmortem exam areas.

Self-guided visits are free, although the organization suggests donations of $5 per visitor. (There is a charge for guided group tours, usually $8 per person.)

About 450 visitors came through on the first day, a spokesman said. He added that the animals are often most active (and loud) around afternoon feeding time, which begins about 1:30 p.m. and can last hours if there are more than 100 animals to be fed.

The missile site was built in 1954, decommissioned in 1972, and taken over by the fledgling mammal center in 1975. Since then, the nonprofit organization has grown into an enterprise with 47 staffers and more than 800 volunteers.

It took four years and $32 million to build the new facility, outfitted with solar panels, native plantings, radiant-floor heating and an underground water-treatment system in a former missile silo. The hospital, whose capacity was quadrupled by the expansion, last year treated more than 800 animals. (The organization gives daily updates on its patients at its website.)