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Stow Lake has been a mainstay in San Francisco tourism for generations, offering bike rides, natural beauty, and boating. Its snack bar is something of legend and looks about the same as it did when it first opened. However, the city seems to envision an upgrade of sorts, saying that by expanding and changing things, more revenues can be obtained through tourism. As you can imagine, controversy has ensued.

The Chron’s kept an eye on this story as it’s developed, tracking the boathouse as it gained local support from a variety of places. Most recently, they’ve reported that the city’s top choice to manage the beloved boathouse is one based far outside the 7×7.

Ortega Family Enterprises of New Mexico, which also operates out of Muir Woods, is being eyed as a possible replacement for Bruce McClellan, whose family has run the boathouse for three generations.

A campaign, the Save Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition has been gathering signatures in support of preserving the boathouse in its current state, and with MCClellan as operator. The group has also advocated community involvement and has been quite vocal at recent Rec and Park Commission meetings.

The city’s plans, aside from hiring a new vendor, include renovating the boathouse and expanding the current snack bar into an indoor cafe. Through Ortega Family Enterprises, the cafe would offer locally and organically grown food options ranging in price from $4.95 to $8.95, says Rec and Park.

The Recreation and Parks Commission is set to issue a decision on whether or not to start working out a deal with the Ortegas on August 19. If an agreement is reached and the Commission approves it, it’ll be up to the Board of Supervisors to make the final decision to allow the boathouse to change hands.

In a past commentary from the Chron, the question of modernity and necessary upgrades versus nostalgic tradition was brought up, which poses the question: which takes precedent?

Photo of Stow Lake snack stand by Yelp user Laura S.

the author

Always in motion. April Siese writes about music, takes photos at shows, and even helps put them on behind the scenes as a stagehand. She's written everything from hard news to beauty features, as well as fiction and poetry. She most definitely likes pie.

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