Guest Column: Off Leash Albany Bulb vs. the Sierra Club

Why is the Sierra Club trying to change access to the Albany Bulb, wonders one reader.

As an animal lover, I completely support a club that wants to protect animal habitats. That's why I'm confused. Some of my dog's favorite habitats are the off-leash parks around San Francisco Bay. Now I hear that the Sierra Club wants to change her access to some of these parks.

As the companion of an active dog in charge of the health and well-being of my family, I look forward to our twice-a-day walks. 

In my neighborhood, leashes are a requirement. I understand that. It keeps a dog safe from racing across a busy street in a pro-active defensive measure against the wily fox squirrel. However, compared to my dog, we are fairly slow-moving folks, and she really enjoy setting her own pace. That’s why I’m so happy about the variety of off-leash parks near my neighborhood, like Point Isabel in Richmond and parts of Cesar Chavez park in Berkeley .
That's where the Albany Bulb  comes in. We hear there’s a movement afoot to to the Albany Bulb. I don’t know what the details are, but we were e-mailed a message that the park's off-leash status was in peril. Seems that the Sierra Club has some issues, but dogs and human companions have needs too. I want to be even-handed about this, so if you want to . 

To learn more about the Albany Beach Habitat Restoration and Public Access Feasibility Study, here’s that link

You may also want to learn more information about the The East Bay Regional Park District’s Master Plan in general. The Board of Directors welcomes your input . It will take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete the survey, but if you enjoy the parks you might want to weigh in with your preferences and concerns.

Emilie Raguso February 28, 2011 at 08:51 AM
Couple thoughts to share on this. There's no plan to change off-leash access as far as the Bulb *itself* (past the neck), though Albany officials have been talking about changing access in other areas of the waterfront. Details here: http://patch.com/A-dYFx The Waterfront Committee *has* talked about including in its dog policy the fact that the beach is off-limits to dogs -- but this is not any kind of change, as per existing rules about state park beaches. So far there has been no indication that enforcement about beach usage would change. Regarding the Sierra Club, as quoted from my story about the most recent meeting on this topic: "Norman La Force, chairman of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, was one of the few who spoke strongly in support of more regulations on the waterfront. He said that, though the group wasn't represented in the meeting, many in Albany feel uncomfortable about visiting the Bulb. "He pointed to the 'devastation and impact other urban animals do to birds in areas like this,' adding, 'I hope you will resist the temptation to go with the flow here [and adopt the new rules].' "He added that his preference would be to see the 'whole Bulb protected' as a bird sanctuary with 'no dogs allowed.'" If you'd like to watch the meeting, you can do so here: http://albanyca.org/index.aspx?page=933
Million Trees February 28, 2011 at 03:45 PM
The Sierra Club has opposed dogs in parks for a long time. Although they claim that their opposition is based on a concern for wildlife, this is not consistent with their advocacy for other actions that are harmful to wildlife and humans, such as using herbicides in native plant “restorations.” These herbicides are known to be harmful to animals, including humans. They also advocate for the use of prescribed burns which are as likely to kill wildlife as they are to kill the non-native plants they want to destroy. They consider native plant restorations a higher priority than reduction of fire hazard. In their public comment on FEMA grants for fire hazard mitigation submitted in Sept 2010, Norman La Force said, “We also urge FEMA to ensure that natural resource protection is given equal status with fire hazard reduction work when final projects are developed.” You can read about the misanthropic agenda of the Sierra Club in these posts on the Million Trees blog: http://milliontrees.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/open-letter-to-the-sierra-club/ http://milliontrees.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/the-sierra-club-instructs-fema/ The only way to make sense of the Sierra Club’s position on this issue is to assume that they are trying to reduce the population of humans on public lands. If dogs are banned, as the Club wishes, there will be few people at Albany Bulb because most people are there with their dogs. This strategy is called “Fortress Conservation.”
Tim Q. Cannon February 28, 2011 at 04:32 PM
On a slightly different subject, is anyone trying to appropriate the so-called "Pierce St. Park" for use as an off leash area? I can't see the State needing that land anymore...(?)
Doug Donaldson February 28, 2011 at 04:57 PM
The Sierra Club and Citizens for the Eastshore State Park were very actively involved in the development of the Eastshore State Park Plan and will continue to be very vigiliant in advocating for its implementation. The Plan designates the Bulb (and Albany Beach, I believe) areas as "Conservation" lands. The Meadow area in Berkeley along the north side of University as you approach the Berkeley Marina area is the model "Conservation" area. It means that there will be a few trails, securely fenced, no dogs, and absolutely no public access behind the fence. It will draw walkers, joggers and birdwatchers, but in relatively small numbers. The only way to change that would be to amend the Eastshore State Park Plan to allow a more "active" level of use in these areas, and any attempt to do so will most assuredly be opposed by the Sierra Club and CESP. In my opinion, dog owners have already lost any chance they ever had to ensure long term access to the Bulb, and especially off-lease access.
Clay Larson February 28, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Doug; You are correct in noting that the Albany Bulb and Berkeley Meadows are designated as Conservation areas in the ESSP General Plan. However, according to the General Plan, conservation areas should be able to accommodate low intensity recreational uses. Building fences with “absolutely no public access behind the fence” aptly describes the “Preservation Area” designation in the General Plan. The Meadow area shouldn’t be viewed as a “model ‘Conservation’" area. It has been managed as a mitigation bank to offset adverse impacts on projects elsewhere in the bay area. This management is arguably inconsistent with the general plan. The Park Distinct seems very enamored with fences. I’m sure they reduce management/maintenance costs.
Neo Serafimidis February 28, 2011 at 07:36 PM
I'm glad to see the use of scare quotes around the word "conservation". How is this concept intelligibly applied to the bulb, site of an industrial landfill? The word must mean something else in this context.
Timothy Sinclair February 28, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Last year in English 3 Honors class, we were taught logical fallacies. One I remember is the ad hominem attack, or an attempt to link the validity of a premise to a characteristic or belief of the opponent advocating the premise. Your argument constitutes an ad hominem attack, and represents a fallacy in logic. Whether or not the Sierra Club supports other issues or policy has no bearing on this one specific policy. I reserve my own opinion on the subject and do not with to engage in discussion about it. I only point out the logical flaw above so that others may not be swayed by this inappropriate argument.
Ross Stapleton-Gray February 28, 2011 at 09:55 PM
The Bulb is a *former* landfill, now being worked by the forces of nature into, well, whatever it's going to become. It may lack the cachet of the shellmounds (landfills from previous human residents), but you can't argue that it's been invaded by a lot of flora and fauna, and they and the weather will continue to make it something that it didn't start as...
Doug Donaldson February 28, 2011 at 10:29 PM
I am not sure I can comment on the nuances that Clay cites regarding the classification and development of the Meadow as "conservation" area. As Neo and Ross point out, it is a former landfill. As I understand it, the ESSP calls for its "redevelopment" into a conservation area. I am assuming that will mean stripping it of current vegetation, perhaps adding lots of topsoil, replanting with native plants, installing trails, fences, benches, signs, etc. and re-opening it to the public. No small undertaking! My model of what it will look like is the Meadow, simply because it shares the "conservation" designation. I would prefer a design that would have more public access and fewer public restrictions, and I hope that Clay's belief that the "conservation" area at the Bulb will be able to accommodate more low intensity recreational uses than the "conservation" area at the Meadow is correct. I suspect however that public access will be fairly limited, and that off-lease dogs would never be permitted in a "conservation" area.
Ariel February 28, 2011 at 11:35 PM
No one wants to take their dog there. Has anyone talk about sending the homeless people there?
Neo Serafimidis March 01, 2011 at 12:26 AM
I couldn't agree more with all that. That's why the notion of conservation seems nonsensical, and "development" of something new according to someone's (i.e., political body or whatever) wishes is what is really on offer.
Francesco Papalia March 01, 2011 at 08:50 AM
This comment is directed to both Emilie Raguso and Million Trees. I object to the postings of comments by anonymous people, especially when they start making seemingly factual or scientific references. I clicked on the blog link in Million Tree's comment and could not find a name associated with the blog. It seems that Patch is being used to promote and anonymous blog. I personally disregard all online postings like this. If a writer is not willing to use their full name, then their ideas and "facts" lack the integrity that comes when you identify your self and stand behind your ideas instead of hiding behind a "million trees". I would hope that Patch would consider changing their policy regarding postings to those who are willing to use their full name behind their ideas. Does this bother anyone else? I respect all of you who do use your full name. I may not agree with you but I appreciate your willingness to stand up and be counted.
Francesco Papalia March 01, 2011 at 08:56 AM
Emilie, please note my comment below to you and Million Tree. I tried to reply directly to Million Tree but could only respond to the reply to his/her comment. Could you clarify how you set your policy regarding the identifying of authors of postings?
Emilie Raguso March 01, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Hi Francesco, thanks for the great questions. My main goal is for Albany Patch be a safe, respectful place for conversation about important Albany issues. Ideally people will use their full names. Some don't feel comfortable with this. Up to this point, I haven't taken the step of suspending users only on this basis. If someone is adding to the dialogue but not using a full name, it's more than reasonable for people to take this factor into account when deciding how much weight to place on the value of that person's contribution, as it sounds like you have done. All articles, letters to the editor and guest columns can only be posted by those using full names.
Peter Rauch March 01, 2011 at 10:36 PM
What solutions are there for meeting these objectives consistently at the Albany Waterfront (ESSP, Albany Bulb/Neck portions) ? 1. Do not allow dogs to approach other visitors (people) without those persons' explicit invitation to approach. 2. Do not allow dogs to cause wildlife to flee as a consequence of the dogs' behavior. 3. Dog handlers must immediately retrieve, and remove, from the site all their dogs' droppings. These are objectives which a large portion of the visitors to the Albany Waterfront expect and deserve to have honored. Do you have a solution ? Peter
Million Trees March 01, 2011 at 11:30 PM
Responding to Francesco Papalia: I must identify myself when I testify at hearings or write public comments. I have been heckled, chased down the hall at city hall by a name-calling native plant advocate, had a rock thrown thru my car window, etc. Therefore, when possible, I remain anonymous, though it obviously doesn't prevent attacks. I provide links to original source documents to substantiate every statement of fact I have made on the Million Trees blog. As long as I am factually accurate, I don't think you have a legitimate gripe. If and when some native plant advocates quit acting like thugs, I will quit posting anonymous comments when it is permitted.
Emilie Raguso March 02, 2011 at 12:53 AM
It seemed like the website was down earlier, which may have exacerbated the issue. Thank you for your response. I think that always helps.
Tim Q. Cannon March 02, 2011 at 01:09 AM
MT..your anonymity doesn't bother me..we vote anonymously don't we?..I think the potential for hypocrisy exists when , for example, someone claims they represent a group, and in fact are just one person, trying to influence policy without any other support. I think you should change your name to 1000 Oaks....it's more topical.
Million Trees March 02, 2011 at 01:21 AM
Although I speak for myself on MT, I am a member of a large coalition of like-minded critics of the destructive aspects of native plant "restorations." I have allies in San Francisco, the East Bay, and Marin County. See http://savesutro.wordpress.com for a focus on issues in San Francisco and hillsconversationnetwork.com for the East Bay perspective.
Caryl O'Keefe March 02, 2011 at 02:09 AM
Peter Rauch asks excellent questions. Are there are good answers that don't require the Sierra Club prefernce to ban dogs from the Bulb? The answers have to be more than "I control my dog and pick up debris." There's too much evidence that others do not control or pick up. Re Bulb history questions, I posted an undated (2005?) pdf from the City of Albany's site that addresses some of the questions above re the landfill, which was construction debris. link is www.albanyca.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=577 . Note that the Regional WAter Quality Board lifted a closure order on the Bulb in 2005 - time and tide did their work re toxic concerns. But per the 1985 lease agreement the City has with State Parks, (which I can't find on the site and may no longer be valid and was never mandatory), Albany would still have to pay millions to remove rebar and concrete chunks, dogs and "plop" art, and relocate homeless, if it still wanted the Bulb transferred to the State. Unfortunately Albany's $600,000 Voices to Vision report dismissed the future of the Bulb as "known" - there should be real dialog about its use and ownership. Not an empty mantra "we know it will go to the State." (so we can ignore the facts that it won't go to the State unless we pay attention to it and spend a lot of money we don't have on it.) Next City of Albany Waterfront meeting is Wed March 2 at 7:30: http://www.albanyca.org/index.aspx?page=16&recordid=3926&returnURL=%2findex.aspx%3fpage%3d1
Peter Rauch March 02, 2011 at 04:34 PM
MT, Would you please provide a link to an original source document which substantiates the statement that you were "...chased down the hall at city hall by a name-calling native plant advocate." Documenting the name "called", the name of the person (if known) who called you that epithet, which city hall the incident occurred in, the date/time of the incident, and evidence for your attribution of the label "native-plant advocate" as relevant to this person and his/her behavior, will provide the readers of this particular unidentified "public comment" (of yours) with the a measure of credibility that possibly can be validated. Peter


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