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Letter to the Editor: Albany's Treasured Waterfront?

Albany's waterfront deserves so much better.

[Editor's Note: Albany Patch would love your 300-word letters to the editor. .]

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the Albany waterfront regarding dog management and beach restoration.

The sentiment is often expressed to "leave it the way it is." For those who have not been to the waterfront recently, I would like to share some photos of "the way it is."    

No one is suggesting a formal or traditional park be developed, but a cleanup, some simple amenities and enforcement of existing rules would make this area more welcoming for all residents.

Without some attention, it is clear that , which belongs to the state and is administered by the East Bay Regional Park District, will irrevocably be changed in a relatively short time. 

The beach will be lost to sea rise and the shoreline eroded away. The East Bay Regional Park District , which should be considered – not rejected to protect the exclusive use of the area by a select few.

There are many amazing and one-of-a-kind art pieces along the shore of the Albany-owned Bulb, as well as hidden around the area. A solution must found to guarantee this art is preserved and a method devised for those unable to visit the “Gallery of the Bulb” to view these sculptures – perhaps through a photo exhibit near the beach.

It is time to have serious conversations about the future of with all of the stakeholders coming together to find imaginative ideas and compromises to create an area that not only keeps its character, but is sustainable, accessible and safe for everyone to enjoy far into the future. 

Without this discussion, those who are uncomfortable with uncontrolled dogs and unsanitary conditions, as well as those with mobility challenges, will continue to be excluded from enjoying this wonderful area.

Del Price March 02, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Thanks Peggy. I appreciated the tour you gave me and enjoyed the art. I welcome a civil discussion on where we can go from here to preserve the shoreline AND make it more inviting for all.
Mary Barnsdale March 02, 2011 at 06:42 PM
The only thing everyone agrees upon is the need for real toilets and potable water. (Not always mentioned but also urgent is better access for the disabled.) Maybe the immediate focus should be on those things (including a wash-down for non-motorized-watercraft users) and shoring up the sides of the landfill so it doesn’t crumble into the bay. Those things alone will cost several million dollars. And then let’s take a deep breath and begin a cooperative, community effort to manage the area for all user groups. (Not just Albany. The Plateau and beach are regional park parcels.) There are different aesthetics warring here: A nature preserve, a traditional park, an urban-edge laboratory for how nature is reclaiming a blight on the Bay. We’d need professional facilitation. Some people resent dogs running around. Others go nuts when (tone deaf) officials allude to “unauthorized art.” People are distraught when native willows and elderberries are cleared out along with Scotch broom. Others grieve when red-winged blackbirds are displaced by mowing the “owl habitat.” Every faction is really fighting to defend the place. Maybe we should join forces to make it work for everyone.
Paul Kamen March 02, 2011 at 10:40 PM
Peggy McQuaid raises some important issues about the problems associated with the homeless community out on the Bulb. She also deserves kudos for that wonderful picture titled "Harvesting at the Mud Flats." She has captured a very rare occurrence of "inverted mud refraction," something as rare as the green flash and even more difficult to capture on film. (Sometimes careless management of Photoshop layers produces the same effect, but I'm sure that's not the case here.) And note the telephoto compression in the photo titled "Unleashed dog at the Mud Flats." It makes it look like that dog in the mud flats is really up on the plateau! I agree with Peggy that a photo gallery near the beach would be a good substitute for actually wandering through the artwork on the bulb, especially if it features photographs as creative as these. Paul Kamen CDAWGS (Coalition for Diverse Activities on Water, Grass and Sand)
Suzanne Portnoy March 02, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Thanks for the pictures and for sharing your perspective!
suzan snider March 22, 2011 at 10:29 PM
What an embarrassing nightmare
Amber Whitson March 27, 2011 at 06:37 AM
I couldn't agree more with the need for bathroom facilities out here. I added the pics of the feces-riddled Castle, because ^I^ am the ONLY person who does ANY maintenance there. Do you know what it is like, hearing children PLAYING there when I know what a health-hazard that place is?!?! On a good day, it's "unsanitary". On a day when it's been raining, the Castle is downright septic! It isn't the people who live out here who use the Castle as a toilet. It is people who come out here, only to find that there is no facilities, and they find the nearest enclosed place to do their business, the Castle. I can't even properly clean the Castle, because the closest trash recepticle is halfway down the Neck of the Bulb! Not to mention, the genuine health risk of handling human feces(Hep C? No, thank you!). I am going to have post signs at the Castle soon, warning tourists, and other Bulb visitors, about the "unseen" dangers lurking in there, if Albany doesn't provide a closer trash can (so I can throw ^away^ the trash at the Castle), or put a bathroom out here, so that people stop treating the Castle as though it were a "throne room".
Emilie Raguso March 27, 2011 at 10:56 PM
Thank you for your service, Amber! I do hear the bathroom issue come up time and again at Waterfront meetings. I wonder how quickly a decision could be made about this, if everyone was in agreement that it needed to happen. Any idea?
papash March 27, 2011 at 11:38 PM
I haven't been to the Bulb in awhile, but l have been following this issue. Has it been suggested that usage be divided up by off leash dog owners having access in the early morning 'til 9 or 10am, and then after 5pm or so-the rest of the late morning thru afternoon being available for people/families/kids who don't like a dog running around them?
Caryl O'Keefe March 28, 2011 at 12:47 AM
Hello papash - a shared time schedule was suggested for the State- owned Beach, where dogs are prohibited at all times by State park rules. I've not heard that suggestion for the City-owned Bulb (land west of the Neck is how City of Albany defines the Bulb), probably because the current draft of the City of Albany's Waterfront Committee (WFC) dog management plan would allow dogs OFF LEASH on the Bulb at ALL times - so long as dogs are under "voice control," which entails the dog being within 6 feet of the walker. If this draft policy is adopted it will be important to have signage showing the Bulb and Neck border - as the Neck rules require dogs ON-LEASH. Here's a link to the joint Park and Rec and WCF meeting in Feb, with a proposed dog management policy and related docs: http://www.albanyca.org/index.aspx?recordid=3931&page=330
papash March 28, 2011 at 01:12 AM
Caryl- Tahanks for the info and link.It's not clear to me what regulation covers the beach- on of off leash?
Caryl O'Keefe March 28, 2011 at 01:28 AM
Thank you Amber for your efforts to clean the Castle, it sounds like a public health hazard. Wonder if it would help to post signs saying "ONLY park restroom facility at Buchanan St turnaround"? About installing a restroom on the Bulb (land west of Neck), Albany's Waterfront Committee did discuss options for that recently. Until City staff liason to WFC reminded that the Bulb "roads" cannot accomodate septic cleanout trucks, particularly during rainy season. That may also affect where trash trucks can reach. Unfortunate realities. Amber, how are Bulb residents managing with the nearest restroom a half mile away? How about hot showers, fresh water for dog bowls, tea, handwashing? Have any relocated to more protected housing in this rainy season?
Caryl O'Keefe March 28, 2011 at 04:29 AM
Papash - you are welcome. Clarifying the beach regulation - no dogs on the Beach, even if on leash. This State rule is because it's a State-owned "bathing" beach. Albany cannot change that rule. It hasn't been enforced, due to limited resources and quick loss of signage, so many are surprised to learn that dogs are prohibited. State park rules were developed in public processes to reflect the needs of many park users and stakeholders, and are very unlikely to change.
Tatter Salad February 28, 2012 at 06:28 AM
So many well meaning but naive comments here -it's hard to know where to begin. To the OP: don't worry about the flood tides in the future wiping out Albany beach. While the Regional Park Department may express help here, please understand their interests are selfish. You see: they are in the 'Sand and Silt' business. For the last 45 years they have been taking money to allow the dumping of 'sand' along South Shore in Alameda. San Francisco pays to off-load 'sand' from the Coast Highway. But it doesn't stop there. The Fed's give them money for 'errosion control.' They, make money on cleaning up the sand they dump, and pass it off as 'natural.' BTW: much of the sand at Albany beach IS from sand dumped at Alameda (They look forward to the same scam at Albany Beach, If only they could build a parking lot in the way...) Regarding the 'Castle;' actually 'Mad Mark's' Castle (he built it); - any waste there is a result of visitors, NOT the residents of the area. EVERYONE is uncomfortable with 'uncontrolled dogs, unsanitary conditions'... particularly those living out there. They VERY much would like to see a monthly dumpster rotation, and the control of 'uncontrolled' dogs. Wheel chair access is another issue.. I don't see wheel chairs whizzing around the 'accessible' (and boring) Caesar Chavez park to the south of us; so that design IS NOT a goal... but yes, the locals out there would like some of the pot-holes removed I'm sure!
Paul Kamen February 28, 2012 at 07:24 AM
Actually, we do see wheelchairs in Cesar Chavez Park: http://www.BerkeleyWaterfront.org/photo-of-the-week/Photo020311.html or http://tinyurl.com/7785o4b On the other hand, this wonderful stepping-stone path on the south side of the Bulb would never be allowed under ADA constraints: http://www.BerkeleyWaterfront.org/photo-of-the-week/Photo040126.html or http://tinyurl.com/83xcskr Some balance is called for here.

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