This poster was presented at A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 21-23, 2016.

By  Shelby Scharen


Since its establishment as a national park in 1972, Alcatraz Island has intrigued the public as the notorious high-security federal penitentiary, infamous for its incarceration of the nation’s most hardened criminals. As a contemporary addition to the National Park Service, the management and protection of this iconic American landscape has required innovative strategies and partnerships, and forward-thinking planning and design. This presentation shares the process of developing the Cultural Landscape Report for Alcatraz Island that guides its future, and recent projects that are the initial results of the document’s guidance.

The CLR reveals the island’s rich layered history, presents a shared vision for its future, and provides direction for Alcatraz Island’s improvement through resource protection, strategic repairs, and new interventions. The CLR is the foundation for the park’s new GMP, and is used daily by park staff, management and partners to guide decision-making and priorities. CLR methodologies and recommendations will be shared in this presentation, including methods for bringing disparate resource values into alignment, and approaches to broadening the recognition and protection of all key resources. The full history of Alcatraz Island and its layered resources will be shared, from its original beginnings as the ‘rock’ in San Francisco Bay, to its inception in 1852 as the first lighthouse on the Pacific Coast to its role as a Civil War fortification to the 1971 American Indian occupation. Details of the vision for the future of Alcatraz Island as an authentic and exciting visitor experience, from revitalizing the historic Parade Ground, to vegetation for birds and historic features, restoration of penitentiary era gardens, to a holistic rehabilitation of island features and previously undervalued spaces, will be described.


Shelby Scharen is an associate at Mundus Bishop, a landscape architectural firm based in Denver, Colorado that specializes in the design of significant places. The firm has been the recipient of numerous design and preservation awards. Shelby’s expertise is in cultural landscapes, including rehabilitation designs, historic resource studies, and new designs that respect the natural environment and cultural heritage. Her work with nationally significant places includes Golden Gate Bridge / Fort Point Waterfront in San Francisco; Denver’s Civic Center; the Ute Indian Museum; and Taos Plaza in New Mexico. Recent NPS projects include Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota; Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska; and Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, Ohio.

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