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Paradise Regained 

Wednesday, Feb 23 2011
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To our recurring surprise, many locals never get the idea to visit Alcatraz, because traveling by boat to an island to walk around cellblocks is just something they don't like do. How come? Because tourists get that idea, every day, by the shorts-wearing boatloads. Here's your solution: The Gardens of Alcatraz Tours, in which you walk around garden landscapes originally developed and maintained by prisoners, guards, guards' families, and whoever else had the forbearance to grow in the brutal climate, like Mother Nature herself. Turns out that a riot of green-thumb niceties occurred during the island's 100-year military and prison period, including a satisfying amount of rose tutoring by the warden's secretary Fred Reichel. This was followed by decades of neglect, and the plants went bad, but rehabilitation efforts, begun in 2003 and led by historic photos, have restored the island to its flowering innocence and landed awards from the California Preservation Foundation. We figure the twice-a-week docent-led tours are light on tourists, because how many visiting Dads are choosing vegetation over sitting in the yard and imagining they're Al Capone, Clint Eastwood, or (if Dad sucks) Nic Cage? Not many -- or, more precisely, not ours.
Fridays, Saturdays, 9:30 a.m., 2011

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Michael Leaverton

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