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City Council supports playing field board

Matthew Artz
Monday September 30, 2002

Construction of playing fields in the bayfront Eastshore State Park appears more likely after a City Council vote last week put the Council’s support behind a regional drive for park fields. 

Berkeley’s decision to suppport a new joint powers board, which is lead by the city of Albany, had been in doubt. For environmental reasons, council had opposed the state plan which calls for three to five fields on the Albany Plateau. Council instead wanted to leave the plateau as natural habitat, but has since eased up. And without Berkeley’s support, the state would have been less willing to include fields in any section of the park. 

Ballfields are rarely found in state parks. In order for the state to make an exception, cities must form a partnership to oversee construction and maintenance, said Don Neuwrith, state park principal planner. 

“Nothing happens unless a joint powers authority happens,” he said. 

El Cerrito, Richmond and Emeryville are now considering joining the partnership. 

The planned 8.1-mile state park that stretches from Emeryville to Richmond has created a rift between environmentalists and playing field advocates. Environmentalists say the park, and especially the Albany coastline, should be preserved as natural habitat, while field users say the park is the region’s best chance to deal with a field shortage that keeps hundreds of Berkeley kids from playing organized sports. 

Although the fields are planned for Albany, Berkeley council members still hope to persuade the state to consider Berkeley sites.. 

“You could build up to six fields in the North Basin Strip,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who added that the site, located west of Gilman Street, would allow for more playing fields and would have less environmental impact than at the Albany Plateau. 

Neuwirth, though, said the Albany site was chosen after careful consideration. “The access to the North Basin Strip is terrible,” she said. 

Because the land is directly on the water, the area is more suitable for aquatic recreation, Neuwirth said. Plans for the strip call for unearthing underground Schoolhouse Creek then constructing a boat launch, a youth hostel and a shoreline promenade. 

The final park plan is scheduled to be submitted to the state in November.