New Berkeley waterfront park should be hit with nature lovers

October 5, 2006 – Kristin Bender

BERKELEY Ñ State and regional park leaders opened a 17-acre slice of the Berkeley Meadow on Wednesday afternoon, lauding it as a great spot for walking, relaxing, bird watching and people watching.

Restoration of the former garbage dump marked the first completed phase of the Eastshore State Park General Plan, adopted in 2002 after 25 years of work by park leaders, elected officials and community watchdogs.

The 8.5-mile-long Eastshore State Park is 2,000 acres of uplands and tidelands along the waterfront of Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Albany and Richmond.

“There is some fantastic bird watching here. Both ways … we watch the birds and the birds watch us,” said Pat O’Brien, general manager of the East Bay Regional Park District.

As part of the $1.3 million Eastshore State Park project, the park district restored and enhanced seasonal wetlands and improved coastal scrub and upland habitats at the Berkeley Meadow. Under a partnership, the state Department of Parks and Recreation spent $1.7 million building trails, fencing and interpretive exhibits.

The 72-acre meadow is a gateway to the park Ñ a mix of nature preserves for birds and wildlife, and recreation areas for walkers, waders, bicyclists, anglers and picnickers.

Meadow recreation facilities are low-key. There are no flush toilets. Chemical toilets for visitors are available across the street behind the nearby Seabreeze Market and Deli. Dogs and bicycles aren’t allowed on trails inside fences around wetlands, but can use trails around the perimeter.

More sensitive property known as preservation areas, such as the Emeryville Crescent mudflats where driftwood sculptures once stood, still are mostly off-limits to people.

More intense activities will be allowed in park recreation zones, including Berkeley’s north basin strip where planners propose a visitors center, hostel, boathouse, picnic tablesand a waterfront promenade with steps to the water. Those projects are years away.

Although the meadow sits at the nexus of an urban area and stretches along five cities, officials said the park is a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

“This is a place we are offering folks to go and be healed,” said Don Monahan, Diablo Vista District superintendent.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates called the park a “labor of love” for many who worked on it for three decades.

“Hundreds of people working thousands of hours have literally spun garbage into gold,” said Bates, who before he was mayor served in the state Assembly 20 years and wrote the legislation that created the park.

His wife, Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), said she remembers the night in 1971 when, as a young Berkeley City Council member, she voted against developing a shopping center there.

“I think the dream (for a park) was born at that time,” Hancock said. “This is an effort that has been going on for many, many decades.”

Denis Cuff of MediaNews contributed to this report.


Source: Inside Bay Area