Open Letter #17

Update on the Eastshore State Park
January 1 2003

An Open letter to the Paddling, Rowing, Windsurfing and Sailing Communities

Previous open letters are archived at

(These letters represent my personal opinion and are not necessarily the position of the Berkeley Waterfront Commission. The Commission's official recommendations for the Eastshore State Park can be found at

This is a short note to report on the December 6 public hearing before the State Parks Commission, and also to alert everyone to the next important date:

Wednesday, January 8 2003. 7:00 PM at the Radisson Hotel in the Berkeley Marina.

The hearing with State Parks last month went reasonably well, and I would like to thank those of you who took the time to wait through a very long agenda to speak to the issue of small boat access.

This was the meeting that officially named the "Eastshore State Park" and officially designated it a "State Seashore" (the first of its kind). There was a very upbeat mood, and a lot of self-congratulation among the various politicos and advocates, mostly well-deserved.

About 75 people spoke, probably 300 present, and there was good representation from kayakers, windsurfers and sailors. No dragon boat or outrigger types in evidence, though. We had Saul Schumsky (Commodore of Cal Sailing Club), Tim Bean (director of Cal Adventures), Jim McGrath (windsurfer and kayaker who does environmental planning for the Port of Oakland), Peter Thornton (Pres. of Bay Area Boardsailors), Keith Miller (runs commercial kayak store and school on the Estuary) and a few other windsurfers and kayakers. The Berkeley Yacht Club Commodore and at least a few other sailors had to leave before it was their turn to speak. This was at least as good a showing as we have made at any of the previous public comment sessions, and I think it was effective.

Most encouraging is that Caryl Hart, the Commissioner who seems to be most supportive of water-borne access and the boating facility in the North Sailing Basin, was elected to chair the Commission next year - so we can be cautiously optimistic. Although, some powerful political forces are still at work trying to block boating facilities on the North Sailing Basin, mainly on the grounds that even non-motorized boating threatens the winter bird habitat (but I detect an unspoken objection to the aesthetics of boat storage and launch facilities).

Meanwhile, separate from the State Parks planning process, the City of Berkeley is completing a master plan for the Berkeley Marina. This includes Cesar Chavez Park, on the northern part of the Marian landfill. There will be public hearing in front of the Berkeley Waterfront Commission on Wednesday January 8 at 7:00 PM, at the Radisson Hotel.

Like the State Parks plan, the Berkeley Marina Plan also shows a facility for non-motorized hand-launched boating. This one would be located somewhere along the east shoreline of Cesar Chavez Park on the west or upwind side of the North Sailing Basin. This facility is probably a long way off, but Sierra Club has already expressed opposition and will presumably be speaking against it.

On the other hand, recreational development of this part of the park might gain a lot of momentum from other features that improve parking near the off-leash dog area and also add one or two playing fields (probably located just south of the methane stack). Dog advocates and soccer parents make powerful allies, and these two interest groups could be well served, along with water-related users, by a single access project.

So, it continues to be important that we show popular support for non-motorized boating, and show that there are lots of people who believe that the value of water-borne access in an urban setting justifies a balanced approach to habitat protection. Unlike the State Parks hearing, this one should be relatively efficient with your time: The hearing is first on the agenda and there's no long presentation from a "planning team" in advance of the public comment session.

Finally, anyone looking for a quick paddling fix on weekend mornings is invited to drop in on the Berkeley dragon boat teams. Team practice is 10:00 every Saturday, and a recreational dragon boat cruise leaves at 9:30 every Sunday, weather permitting.

See you there, or at the Waterfront Commission hearing next Wednesday evening at the Radisson.

Paul Kamen
Chair, Berkeley Waterfront Commission 510-540-7968