An Open Letter to the Paddling, Rowing, Windsurfing, and Sailing Communities (September 1 2001)

Monday, September 24, 2001

Please put this date in your calendar. It is probably the most important date ever in the history of the Berkeley Waterfront. Monday September 24 is the date of the first public workshop to determine appropriate uses for most of the shoreline between the Bay Bridge and Richmond.

There is consensus that most of the shoreline and tidelands will be preserved as open space and wildlife habitat. Emeryville Crescent, the Hoffman Mash, the creek outflows, and other sensitive tidal flats are quite safe. At issue is the degree to which human recreation will be supported along other areas of the shoreline, areas which have less ecological importance but offer perfect opportunities for various types of small craft operation.

If the plans put forth by the Sierra Club and Audubon Society are adopted, the Eastshore State Park will be a great place to look at the water - but you'll have to go elsewhere if you want to touch it or float on it.

The meeting is Monday, September 24, at 7:00 PM at Hs. Lordships Restaurant, Berkeley Marina, in the upstairs banquet room. This room holds 600 people, and the workshop organizers hope to fill it up.

Previous "workshops" have really just been presentation and comment sessions. This time, the plan is to break the participants into groups of probably about ten people per group, and go through a three step process using large-scale maps. Participants will be asked to:

1) Estimate the "carrying capacity" of each section of the park.
2) Determine appropriate uses consistent with carrying capacity.
3) Propose improvements and facilities to support those uses.

If State Parks (the owner) and East Bay Regional (the operator) do the right thing, this park could provide some amazing opportunities for entry-level rowing, kayaking, small boat sailing, windsurfing, and possibly even a permanent dragon boat facility or an outrigger club.

We could have on-site storage for kayaks and sailboards at the best launch sites. We could have youth programs offering dragon boat practice every day after school. We could have rental rowboats for the one-time visitor. We could have sensible parking lots near the launch sites where they're needed, with bathrooms and showers.

At issue here is the role we see for water-borne recreation in an urban setting: Is it something we should have at our doorstep? Or is it something we should have to drive a great distance to find, in a vehicle large enough to carry our gear? Should a State Park support non-profit clubs with strong public service components? Or is the commercial monopoly concession their only business model?

As much as I dislike taking positions that oppose the Sierra Club, I think the Club has the environmental interests of the region on backwards in this case. Close-in recreation, especially recreation involving small non-motorized boats, has an environmental and social value that is going unrecognized by the Sierra Club and by the planners and advocates who seem to be in control. There is real danger that we'll end up with a waterfront that relates to the water in name only, with no way to actually do anything involving boats.

We can change this. Please attend the workshop on September 24, and take part in shaping this new waterfront park.

For more background, see the letter archived at
and other documents pertaining to the Eastshore State Park at

My response to the article in the August issue of the Sierra Club Yodeler is at

Meanwhile, walk the site and use your imagination, and I'll see you at the workshop on Monday September 24.

Paul Kamen
Chair, Berkeley Waterfront Commission 510-540-7968