Open Letter #13
Update on the Eastshore State Park
An Open letter to the Paddling, Rowing, Windsurfing and Sailing Communities
Previous open letters are archived at www.well.com/user/pk/waterfront/EastshoreStatePark/OpenLetters/.
(These letters represent my personal opinion and are not necessarily the position of the Berkeley Waterfront Commission. The Commission's official recommendations for the Eastshore State Park can be found at www.well.com/user/pk/waterfront/EastshoreStatePark/Resolution-020313.html.)
We have one more opportunity to attempt to keep reasonable water access in the plan for the Eastshore State Park: Tuesday April 30, at the Berkeley Community Theatre, 7 pm. The agenda is online at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil/2002citycouncil/agenda/043002AJrev.html.
This is a combined City Council, Waterfront Commission, and Parks & Recreation Commission meeting. The planning consultants for the park will begin writing their final recommendations for the shoreline, from Emeryville to Richmond, the very next day after this meeting. So as far as Berkeley's input to the park plan is concerned, this is our last chance.
How do things look?
The "Preferred Park Concept Plan" issued by the planning consultants in early March has some very positive elements, but it is likely that the most important water access facilities will not survive the Berkeley City Council recommendations.
The March 21 public workshop to review this plan attracted something like 600 participants, including very large contingents of playing field advocates and off-leash dog walkers. There were a few windsurfers and kayakers, and some artists calling for the Albany Bulb to be left as is. But it's the dog people and soccer parents who produce the numbers. The dog people have something dear to their hearts to defend (off-leash at North Point Isabel and the Bulb) and the soccer parents face a critical shortage of playing and practice venues. Unfortunately the proposed new water access facilities have no existing users, so there is no equivalent large and motivated constituency to from which to draw support.
Human and wind-powered boating is the one form of active and environmentally compatible recreation that can only happen at the waterfront. Whether the park plan accommodates water-related uses will have profound long-term consequences on how the East Bay communities view their relationship to the Bay and the shoreline. Stewardship is the word currently in favor: The way to create the passion for preservation and protection on which responsible stewardship depends is to make it easy for lots of people to interact with the water at their doorstep.
At the end of the March 21 hearing, Councilmember Kriss Worthington stated that the only policy for which he detected a clear consensus was to leave the Berkeley Meadow completely untouched. He also believes this will be the consensus of the rest of the City Council, and he could be right.
The problem is that the planning consultants' map currently shows one corner of the Meadow - one or two acres out of a total of 73 - as the preferred location for a facility to support human and sail powered boating. This is the best place for a boating access facility for a number of reasons: deepest water close to shore, proximity to existing parking, nearly contiguous with related activities in the marina, and best shelter from summer westerlies. And it's well clear of northern harrier and white-tail kite roosting locations, cited as one of the reasons for opposing this kind of activity.
But If the Council agrees with those who insist that habitat preservation requires 100 percent of the Meadow and that 97 percent is not enough, then paddlers, rowers, kayakers, windsurfers, small boat sailors, rowboat renters, and dragon boat racers will be left out of the plan. There will be no public boating access, no youth programs and no organized recreation. The water of the North Sailing Basin will be there to look at, but not to touch or to float on.
Compromises are available that give all interest groups nearly all of what they want. But we will have to continue to impress upon the various levels of government officials and planners that floating on the water is an important part of the waterfront experience.
There's more background info on all of this at www.BerkeleyWaterfront.org.
If you can't be at the meeting on Tuesday, write or email the planning consultants and the Berkeley City Council before that date. After that, the lobbying target shifts the California Parks Commission and the California Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
But first, let's show the planners that they did not make a mistake when they included a boating facility on one corner of the Meadow. We can do this by giving them the feedback they need to justify keeping this vital feature in the plan.
Once again, the date is Tuesday April 30, 7 pm. The Berkeley Community Theatre occupies the 1900 block of Alston Way. Downtown Berkeley BART is one block to the east, and on-street parking can always be found a few blocks to the west if you don't want to use one of the nearby fee lots.