State Park’s New Section Opens After Long Delay

October 5, 2006 – by Corinna Matlis

After 20 years of lawsuits and compromising, community volunteers and politicians are finally celebrating the dedication of a landfill-turned-meadow at a Berkeley state park.

Officials from several area cities and environmental groups joined state park staff in a ribbon-cutting that officially opens a section of Berkeley Meadow, just north of the marina, to the public.

The meadow, which is part of the Eastshore State Park system, sits on reclaimed land that was used as a landfill throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Several trails now crisscross the meadow, where park planners have restored many native plant species. Now that the natural environment has been re-created, environmentalists also hope native wildlife will return to the site.

For two decades, city politicians and volunteers have worked through a laborious series of obstacles-including two major lawsuits, funding

shortages and land-use disputes-in developing the land.

“What this really means to me is that hundreds of people working thousands of hours have spun garbage into gold,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.

The Eastshore State Parks, which span Berkeley, Emeryville, Richmond and Albany, have been a project of local environmentalists since the early 1980s.

Sylvia McLaughlin, who co-founded the local environmental group Save the Bay, was one of the park’s first advocates. After helping to successfully oppose the city of Berkeley’s plan to fill in 200,000 acres of the San Francisco Bay for development, the group turned its attention to creating a park.

Since then, years of litigation and negotiations among different interest groups have stalled park plans.

The development company Catellus, which originally owned the land where the meadow now sits, sued the city of Berkeley twice over the city’s plans to re-zone the area as environmental land before buying it.

Both suits reached the U.S. Supreme Court and were decided in Berkeley’s favor, Bates said.

Despite the myriad complications in creating the park, McLaughlin said she was never discouraged.

“We never thought much about (obstacles),” she said. “We just thought about persevering.”

The ceremony yesterday featured eight speakers, including the mayors of all four cities where the Eastshore State Parks are located.

The event marks the completion of the first of three phases of meadow development. Rough plans to develop the other phases exist, but funding has not yet been secured, said Steve Granholm, a board member of Citizens for Eastshore Parks.

Despite the work that still needs to be done in developing the park, many were already pleased with the park for its current offerings of trails and recreational space.

“A lot of people will use it because it is easy to get to,” said Kitty McLean, a Berkeley resident and Citizens for Eastshore Parks board member.

Bates said he hoped yesterday’s dedication would raise community awareness of the park and increase its use by community members.

Many in attendance said parks like Eastshore are necessary to balance the increasing urbanization in the Bay Area.

“Parks and open spaces are what makes cities livable,” McLaughlin said.


Source: The Daily Californian