Gill Tract Meeting at Community Center Draws 100

The meeting focused on history of the Gill Tract, rather than Occupy the Farm. Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic.

About 100 people attended a meeting about the Gill Tract at the Albany Community Center on Wednesday. Judging by applause at some comments, the majority supported the recent take-over of the Gill Tract by the Occupy the Farm group.

But the take-over was very little discussed. Albany resident , who rented the room and organized the meeting, announced that this was not to be “a forum on the farm. This is not a discussion of what’s currently going on.” His intent for the meeting, he said, was to learn about the Gill Tract.

Presentations were given: on the high quality of the soil; on past efforts to turn the Gill Tract into a public farm; on the need to use Albany’s approval of the Whole Foods project as leverage to get an easement protecting the Gill Tract as agricultural land.

Only one or two speakers protested the Occupy efforts.

As people got up to speak, what emerged was a strong emotional attachment to the farmland at the corner of Marin and San Pablo avenues, a desire to connect with that space, and a sense of frustration about not having access to the only farmland in town.

“I used to drive by the Gill Tract and the gates were always locked,” said Michael Beer, who works with Urban Roots/Friends of the Gill Tract and has long advocated for the space to become an urban farm. “The gates are open now,” he said, to applause. 

An Albany mother described standing at the fence with her kids, wishing they could go in. Her children took field trips to Ardenwood in Fremont, she said, in order to see a working farm; she wished they could visit a farm right here in Albany.

Beer, after describing the type of agricultural park that Urban Roots would like to see on the Gill Tract said, “This is Albany. This is the small town ambiance we want to preserve.” 

Miguel Altieri, a U.C. Berkeley professor who uses the land for research and who supports Occupy the Farm, was invited to the meeting, but not present, said McKnight.

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. Read more on Albany Patch about the Gill Tract occupation.

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

D Cardozo May 04, 2012 at 05:15 PM
I was lucky enough to attend this meeting sitting next to Peggy McQuaid, whose long involvement in Albany has been recognized in the Patch before: http://albany.patch.com/articles/peggy-mcquaid-is-all-things-albany Ms. McQuaid and I sit on different sides of this issue, in many ways. She is a longtime resident, while I've only lived here a few years. Peggy is a homeowner, while I am a renter. Finally, Peggy has a long track record of involvement in local committees and organizations. I coordinate the Silly Olympics at Cornell Elementary, but that's about it. Peggy has invested a lot of time and commitment to Albany, and she's done it all the "right" way: meeting after meeting, committee after committee, etc. She didn't have to come to the meeting Wednesday. She could have dismissed it as a stunt to build up support for the gill tract activists, whose extreme actions no doubt offend her belief in doing the long hard work, through proper channels, to build a thriving community. Peggy did show up, however, along with David Arkin of the zoning commission. She listened to the talks about the history of the tract, and took in as much as she could before she had to go. She even shook my hand, saying I was younger than she expected, which maybe means I'm more mature than I thought (for a troublemaker). I want to thank her for that, as well as for providing me with an example of how to stay involved in my adopted home in the future: by showing up and getting involved.
Kevin Johnson May 04, 2012 at 06:20 PM
D, you'd even look younger without the beard
Peggy McQuaid May 04, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Thank you for your kind words.
Milan Moravec May 05, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Campus police report to and take direction from UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and Provost Breslauer. Cal students were protesting the doubling of tuition by Birgeneau and in Birgeneau's absence Provost Breslauer allowed Campolice to rein baton jabs on Cal students, Birgeneau and Breslauer use thei campus police to mediate and compromise. Birgeneau resigned. Fire Provost Breslauer
Gary McGowan May 06, 2012 at 10:10 AM
"An Albany mother described standing at the fence with her kids, wishing they could go in. Her children took field trips to Ardenwood in Fremont, she said, in order to see a working farm; ..." That actually brought tears to my eyes. It's sad how the overpaid autocratic fearful people, who see the world as a jungle in which they must be constantly be swinging a weapon of some sort, even if it's their pen, trample upon the Good and the working people. A better world is possible. (I'm 66 and have taught university. Sane people can be of many sorts.)
Carmen Canchola Brockmeyer May 06, 2012 at 10:43 PM
The occupiers have started an important conversation. We need to think long and hard about the future of the Gil Tract. I've lived in this town for 19 years, am a homeowner, and really like the idea of an urban farm.


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