Recently some letters were sent to the editors of the Daily Planet regarding the construction work that is currently underway at the Berkeley Meadow. We would like to respond to those letters and provide some information about this restoration project.
The East Bay Regional Park District and the State Department of Parks and Recreation have jointly developed and are implementing Phase I of a three-phase habitat restoration and public access project on the 72-acre Berkeley Meadow. This project was described and evaluated in an environmental document that was circulated for public review and comment in early 2004. It is also consistent with the conceptual pro-ject described in the Eastshore State Park General Plan, which was approved in December of 2002 after considerable public review and comment. The City of Berkeley reviewed and commented on both of these documents and their comments were incorporated into the current plan.
The Phase I plan calls for enhancement of existing wetlands and creation of new wetlands within a 17-acre area. This will be done by removing non-native vegetation and recontouring the site with clean imported topsoil. Clusters of native willows and coyote brush will be retained and supplemented with a diverse palette of native shrubs, grasses and herbs. Nesting locations for the Northern harrier will be protected with fencing and nesting locations for the western burrowing owl will be provided.
Trails will be provided through and around the meadow. The interior trails will be eight-foot wide gravel trails for pedestrians. Paved perimeter trails already exist; however, the trail along the Virginia Street alignment on the north side of the meadow will be regraded, paved and landscaped to allow for better public access in this area. Perimeter and interior fencing will be provided to protect wildlife from disturbance. Consistent with the approved plans, no dogs will be allowed on the meadow’s interior trails. Off-leash dog access is permitted at Cesar Chavez Park and at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline.
Phase I improvements will cost about $3.3 million and will be constructed over the next seven months. The meadow will be closed until these improvements are complete in March of 2005.
Eastshore State Park extends 8.5 miles along the East Bay shoreline from the Bay Bridge to Richmond. It includes 2,262 acres of uplands and tidelands along the waterfronts of Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, Albany and Richmond. The state owns the majority of Eastshore State Park and partners with EBRPD to manage the site. The San Francisco Bay Trail will link the entire park when the project is completed.
The park includes tidal marshes, sub tidal areas and mudflats that extend bayward from the shoreline, including the Emeryville Crescent, Albany Mudflat and Hoffman Marsh. Most of the existing upland area is the result of fill placed in the Bay west of the historic shoreline. The park reflects the influences of both natural systems and human intervention. State Parks and EBRPD plan to enhance and restore a number of ecosystems and habitat types throughout the park. The Berkeley Meadow project is the first of many anticipated improvements in this park that will take place as funding is provided.
Brad Olson is manager of the East Bay Regional Parks District’s environmental program.