Followup Comments to Cyndy Shafer of State Parks

Date: Fri, 14 Nov 2003 10:59:00 -0800 (PST)
From: Paul Kamen
Subject: North Sailing Basin Bird Study

Cyndy - this is the kind of thing I'm concerned about.

The JPA (Joint Powers Authority) will move forward with development of five playing fields on the strip of land between the freeway and the Bay, south of the Golden Gate Fields racetrack stables area, and north of the Eastshore State Park boundary. This is the parcel recently purchased from GGF by East Bay Regional Parks District, and will probably be known as "Gilman Park."

There is an opportunity to add some access for paddle and wind-powered boats, right next to the field sports complex. Some of us see a very valuable synergy in bringing the two user groups into close proximity; a lot of kids who come down to the waterfront for practice (or to watch a sibling in a game) will very likely be exposed to kayaks and other small watercraft at close range for the first time. This is especially valuable because water-based sports often appeal to people who are not attracted the culture of field sports - it would add a whole new dimension of recreational opportunities to the site.

Right now, the JPA proposal includes some space in their field house for kayak support, and a small area for onsite kayak storage. Plus some relatively inexpensive amenities like an outside shower and hose.

This is all on the EBRPD side, more than 100 ft from the shoreline. On the State Park side, on the small jetty that extends out from the foot of Gilman Street, there is the possibility of some improvements to the to rocks and beach to make launching a little easier. But this is not essential to the success of the site, and presumably would come later.

The problem is that Sierra Club (or at least, people representing themselves as Sierra Club) want any new water access at Gilman to be a trade for the much more comprehensive boating facility shown in the ESP General Plan. Also, they insist that nothing can happen until the Waterbird Study is complete, even if the new access is at the boundary of the North Basin and only allows access to areas where there are currently no restrictions on any kind of non-motorized boating access. (That's why the boundary of the study area is important - extending the boundary beyond the protection of Cesar Chavez Park to the west makes no sense geographically, but could be used politically to block any improvements to kayak access.)

Here's the position purportedly from the Sierra Club, most likely the work of Norman La Force:

The boating community has requested tidal steps at the end of Gilman, outdoor boat storage (2500 sq.ft.), indoor meeting and equipment space and an outdoor shower/hose.

The Sierra Club has responded "The Club will consider this issue, but only on two major conditions. First, this constitutes a trade for the proposed boating access within the Eastshore State Park. The Club will oppose two boating access sites along the East side of the North Basin Cove, unless there is a firm agreement from the State the they will not go forward with the boat launch, etc. farther South, this boating access will be vigorously opposed. Second, it must be demonstrated that there will not be any significant impact to wildlife especially rafting waterfowl."

What is really telling about this position is that even if the second condition is met, i.e. no significant impact to wildlife, they STILL object to this additional access point. WHY? There is nothing more consistent with "recreation in a natural setting" (the primary purpose of the Eastshore State Park, according to the enabling legislation) than wind and muscle-propelled boating. And, there is no better way to build a long-term environmental constituency than by encouraging these forms of recreation - kayaks, windsurfers and small sailboats are the breeding grounds for good stewards of the bay and the shoreline.

Thank you for your continuing work on the waterbird study, and for taking the time to discuss it with me.

(Feel free to redistribute this email.)

Paul Kamen
Berkeley Waterfront Commission 510-540-7968