Back to Berkeley: By Land, Sea or Air — Pleasures Await at the Berkeley Marina By MARTA YAMAMOTO Special to the Planet
Approaching the Berkeley Marina along University Avenue one is greeted by multicolored flags moving enthusiastically in the wind. They’re waving you forward, eager for you to join in. Each color—teal, goldenrod, lime and forest green, tangerine, violet—represents different choices awaiting you.
Great cities have great resources. The Berkeley Marina’s resources can be used in different ways depending on your interest and level of activity. Enjoy walking, cycling, boating, fishing, kite flying, and bird watching or just sitting and soaking up the scenery. A renewable resource, one visit won’t use it up. Just one short mile from city center, you’ll return often.
A get-acquainted walking tour along a wide, paved path lining the bay and marina points out “places of interest.” Recently I followed this tour, catching up on old friends and making new ones.
Beginning at the southeast corner of the Marina, I admired the attractive landscaping of lawns, strands of pines and large ceanothus shrubs while gazing across the water toward Emeryville. Benches invited me to sit-a–spell watching the sunlight dance on the water.
For anyone interested in sailing or windsurfing, the Cal Sailing Club is worth a visit. This non-profit cooperative has been around for 60 years providing lessons, equipment rentals, cruises and races. Free rides are offered at open houses held twice a month.
Leaving the sound of wind-ruffled sails I next heard a concerto of hammering accented by excited voices and the zing of a zip-line. I’d reached the entrance to Shorebird Park and Adventure Playground where kids bring imagination into reality using recycled materials, nails and paint to construct forts, boats, towers or whatever they fancy. Opened in 1979, this playground has long been a favorite among kids and their parents. Encouraging skills not often called upon, what children gain is far greater than their enjoyment. Sadly, my age greatly surpassed the Playground’s 26 years of adventure, so I continued into Shorebird Park.
A wood-frame play structure, giant concrete pipe and swings continue the theme while expansive lawns and benches appeal to the less active. Picnic tables with grills border a sheltered cove and rocky beach. Gentle breezes, warm sun and the sound of birds evoke a sense of peace and timelessness. Here one can escape alone or with friends for an hour or a day. Just keep an eye out for the explosion of gray ground squirrels. Signs warning against feeding them appear to be too late.
Opposite the beach stands the Nature Center in the Straw Bale building. Attended by students from all parts of the Bay Area, the center’s goal is to educate about the ecology of the bay, watershed and estuary. Using salt-water aquariums, touch tables, hands-on stations and outdoor activities, children visit with their school or sign up for afternoon classes.
If you’re hoping to get involved with your community, two programs sponsored by the Nature Center welcome your participation. The Bay Clean Up on Sept. 17 draws concerned citizens of all ages for a three-hour shoreline “fall-cleaning” Day. It requires a longer commitment but offers greater rewards. This docent-training program will fulfill your lifelong dream to emulate Jacques Cousteau; you’ll spend time among the rocks and docks with fellow enthusiasts, learn about marine biology and share this knowledge with the young.
The Straw Bale Building is an attraction in itself, drawing design students, builders and home remodelers interested in sustainable architecture. This handsome building of gray stucco trimmed in teal is entirely constructed of recycled or salvaged materials: straw bales of rice by-products, natural linoleum, recycled glass windowsills and seats and cellulose insulation. Interpretive panels describe the building process and a brochure lists all products used and their suppliers. Create a family project by constructing Adventure Playground designs using “green” materials.
Heading west along the path I felt and heard the breeze intensify, more so when I reached the bay’s edge at Seawall Drive. White caps provided visual evidence of a wind strong enough to clear away cobwebs crowding my head. This area is often enjoyed within the comfort of an automobile; many come to read, nap or just enjoy the view. From here it’s possible to see the two generations of the Berkeley Pier, where the new pier ends, the remains of the old, burned pier continue out onto the bay.
At the entrance to the pier you can stop for a tasty hot dog or hot link from Eat and Run or take a photo of Frederick Fierstein’s Guardian, a mysterious sculpture that appeared in 1985, protecting the life spirit. Strolling to the end of the pier requires an investment of 3,000 feet, a salt-tinged walk on water. I passed a dad and his two kids with lines out for ocean perch and traps out for crab, not a bad way to spend the day, even when the fish aren’t running.
Directly ahead lay Alcatraz Island and beyond a hovering fog bank, the Bay Area’s personal air conditioner, keeping us cool as inlanders swelter in the heat.
Back on Seawall, I headed north toward the Berkeley Yacht Club, looking out at the protective breakwater and then did a u-turn into the 52-acre marina. Boats of all sizes with bright marine-blue sail coverings and sentinel masts filled the 975 berths. Dreams of adventurous or romantic cruises come easily gazing across these beautiful craft. Grounds landscaped with lawns, agapanthus and pines, regularly placed benches and a horseshoe park add to this area’s appeal, as does the whimsically painted sculpture, Calliope, by Joseph Slusky.
Across from the Marina Office I entered the Marina Deli. More than hot dogs and chips await you here. Stocked with fishing lures, line, fishing weights, and of course, live bait. Fancy some pile worms, anchovies or grass shrimp? Home to the Berkeley Marine Sport Center, you can sign up here to cruise the bay or out to the Farallon Islands on the new Easy Rider or El Dorado fishing for salmon, rock cod or albacore tuna, as well as hear the latest fishing report.
Following the marina east I reached Marina Blvd. then followed rows of berths accommodating an interesting variety of live-on boats to Spinnaker Way and Cesar Chavez Park.
Loved by both dog-walkers and kite flyers, ninety-acres of former landfill now offer large multi-use turf, wetland and shoreline areas. Fido can run off-leash in the seventeen-acre center section or accompany you on-leash along the 1.25-mile Dorothy Stegman perimeter trail where you’ll pass picnic areas and an undeveloped wildlife sanctuary frequented by bird watchers.
As kites fluttered overhead, I watched families on the leeward side of the bluff picnicking while holding onto their kite strings. Here the winds reach maximum strength explaining why this is the site of the annual Kite Festival. I feasted on the San Francisco skyline, the Marin hills, Angel Island and the three bay bridges, an incredible panorama before me.
Views worth millions of dollars, personal benefits priceless, cost to be here, zero. Whether you tack your sail into the wind, watch gulls wheel above fishing boats, smell burgers on the grill, or just claim a bench—the Berkeley Marina has a spot with your name on it.
201 University Ave., 981-6740. www.cityofberkeley.info/marina.
Open 11-4 p.m. Sat. and Sun., free drop in.
Straw Bale Nature Center Open Tues.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 981-7620.
Cal Sailing Club
Berkeley Marina Sport Center 849-2727, www.sfbayfishing.com.
The best way to get to the Berkeley Marina from campus using AC Transit is to take the 51 bus from the south side of campus, or the 52L bus from the north side, or either one from the intersection of Shattuck and University avenues. Ride west on University Avenue until Sixth Street. Transfer to the 9 bus at Sixth Street to ride over the highway to the marina.?