Comments to the State Parks Commission
December 2002

(These comments represent my personal opinions and are not necessarily the positions of the Berkeley Waterfront Commission.)

I would like to comment on the level of support for wind-powered and human-powered boating in the North Sailing Basin, and how this relates to long-term environmental strategies.

First consider the context: The Emeryville Crescent will be totally protected, the Albany tidal flats and subtidal zones will be totally protected, and the large expanses of subtidal habitat in the lee of Brooks Island and Point Isabel are to be left undisturbed.

Also consider that the South Sailing Basin continues as a rich migratory bird habitat despite the fact that it hosts a number of year-round sailing and paddling programs.

And finally, note that the decline in the populations of the diving duck species of most concern has occurred in the context of virtually no change in the available East Bay habitat - therefore it is difficult to conclude that local habitat pressure has any relation to this decline.

What is the right policy for the North Sailing Basin? This protected body of water offers an opportunity for types of recreation that are not possible at any other location in the Eastshore State Park. These activities are in sharp contrast to those supported by marina berths or launching ramps for powerboats: Small hand-launched boats powered by paddles, oars and sails are the definitions of entry-level boating, and they maximize access for the broadest possible range of park visitors. When operated by non-profits rather than commercial concessions, the cost of participation can be spectacularly low.

More significantly, it would be hard to find a cohort more dedicated to the protection of the shoreline environment than paddlers, rowers and small boat sailors.

The question is not whether a duck will ever have to move out of the way of a kayak. Rather, the question is whether we should be painting this part of the waterfront with the same wilderness brush as other areas of the park. This is an urban waterfront uniquely suited to support urban recreational needs, and these needs should be balanced against, not made subservient to, the doctrine of habitat protection.

It is ironic that environmental advocacy groups have opposed facilities to support non-motorized boating in the North Sailing Basin, because ultimately it will be this community of paddlers, rowers and sailors that will be the most valuable stewards of our Bay. Helping this community to expand is one of the most important policies that the State Parks Commission can adopt to protect the shoreline of the East Bay.

Please approve a park plan that gives high priority to active water-borne recreation.

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