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Aquatic Park Awarded Grant to Protect Habitat By JUDITH SCHERR

Friday March 03, 2006

Egrets, coots, cyclists, Frisbee players, rowers, bat rays, leopard sharks, rats, squirrels—Aquatic Park offers something for the many species who live or hang out there.  

These human, animal and bird occupants of the nearly 100-acre park sometimes compete for space. At the same time they must confront pollution from the freeway, which borders the park to the west, the trains that rumble along the tracks to the east and the airplanes and helicopters that roar overhead. 

A $2 million grant from the Coastal Conservancy aims to protecting the park by improving water quality and natural habitat. 

But the city doesn’t have the $2 million in hand just yet, cautions Deborah Chernin, senior parks planner. The Coastal Conservancy, a state agency whose aim is to preserve California’s coasts and wetlands, has written the city a “letter of intent,” saying that it will get the grant money once it details the ways in which funds will be spent. 

The parks department is working with consultants to write detailed plans. 

One of the projects being studied is improving the water flow between the bay and the three lagoons. Water flows into the lagoon bringing nutrients and it flows out removing pollutants, says a study written by Oakland-based consultants, Laurel Marcus & Associates. 

“Stagnant water is not oxygenated,” Chernin noted. 

Part of the grant money will likely be dedicated to the removal of invasive plants. “The non-native plants choke out natives,” said Mark Lilios of the Environmental Greening, Restoration, and Education Team (EGRET), a group of citizens who advocate for Aquatic Park. The invasive plants support the rats, but not the birds, he said. 

“We try to balance recreational uses of the park with habitat,” Chernin said. “It is beloved and well-used among a certain group of people.” 

Among the human users are frisky golf enthusiasts, rowing teams, water-skiers, joggers, dog walkers and picnickers.  

“The park is getting greater and greater use,” Chernin said, noting that since the completion of the pedestrian bridge that crosses the freeway, linking the marina with Aquatic Park, the park has enjoyed more access. 

More families come to the area with children since the completion of the play area, known as “Dream Land for Kids,” and there are plans to improve the connection between the Fourth Street shopping area and Addison Street which connects to Aquatic Park.  

The park, Berkeley’s largest, was built in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration, along with the construction of the Bayshore Highway. Tubes bringing Bay water to the park’s three lagoons run under the freeway.