Kent Island Restoration

From gold rush port, to family legacy, to protected sanctuary.


In gold rush days, Bolinas was a busy shipping port for logged redwoods bound for San Francisco. Dairy products and other farm products then became the main export, on schooners built right on the lagoon.


Scottish James Black (1810-1870), a resident of Marin since 1934, became the County's first tax assessor, judge, and coroner, and it's second largest landowner. In 1852 he bought the Olompali Rancho from Camilo Ynitia for $5,200. Only legends remain to tell the story of Ynitia's last days. Some say robbers, or his own tribes people, killed him for the money he received. Others say the money remains buried in Olompali.


In 1871, Albert and Adaline Kent moved their family to Marin from Chicago. Their son William became an avid outdoorsman. After returning to Chicago to pursue his education and start a career, he came back to Marin with his wife and seven children. When a beloved grove of redwoods was slated to be cut down, William and Elizabeth Kent bought the land. Kent then persuaded president Teddy Roosevelt to accept the 298 acres as a gift, and designate it as a national monument–Muir Woods. Kent went on to become a Congressman, and continued extending his land holdings across Marin.


William Kent's two sons, Thomas and Roger, inherited Kent Island in Bolinas. In 1957 the California State Lands Commission leased 1200 acres of tidelands adjacent to the island to the Bolinas Harbor District, to encourage infill and development of a large marina, motel, and parking lots. To deter the project, Alice and Roger Kent donated 9.5 acres of Kent Island to the Marin Audubon Society as a wildlife preserve.


Encouraged by local environmental groups, Thomas Kent's widow Anne sold Kent Island to the Nature Conservancy, with the goal of gifting the property to Marin County as a wildlife park. This effectively ended efforts to develop the island. In 1967, the Marin Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to accept the gift. Today Bolinas Lagoon is public land protected by the Marin County Open Space District, the Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the Point Reyes National Seashore, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.