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Council Supports Beach Project; Public Comment Through April 30

Official comments related to the scope of the project's environmental review can be submitted to cbarton@ebparks.org through the end of the month. Click "Keep me posted" below for updates when we cover this topic.

Albany Beach restoration plans that are underway by the East Bay Regional Park District met with unanimous approval by the on Monday night. 

But several suggestions offered by officials and members of the public cannot be considered as part of the environmental review planned for the project, a Park District official said Tuesday.

Restoration plans include a new parking lot, improved disabled access, new vault toilets and a range of other changes. 

The Park District is in the process of , through April 30, about the scope of the project's environmental review document. 

The Park District is also involved in litigation with to take over part of the racetrack's parking lot to turn it into a that would connect Gilman and Buchanan streets. 

District officials to present their plans and hear feedback from the public. 

CHANGES TO COME IN THREE PHASES

Project manager Chris Barton said the plan includes three phases: shoreline and trail restoration along the "neck"; Albany Beach enhancement and recreation improvements; and the Bay Trail. 

In Phases 1 and 2, creosote timbers and inorganic debris will be removed from several areas of the beach. The shoreline will be stabilized, the trail will be improved, and an offshore oyster habitat will be enhanced.

In Phase 2, the Park District will work on improving beach access and adding parking, restrooms, bike racks and educational exhibits. A picnic area will be developed and eucalyptus trees will be preserved. Park entrance signage will be added.

The Park District will also work on adding sand to the beach and dune area; expanding the wetlands; and adding fencing to protect a wildlife habitat area.

Phase 3 will involve building the Bay Trail to connect Gilman and Buchanan. 

ALBANY OFFICIALS, MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC RESPOND

Monday night, the City Council took a look at the Park District's plans. 

called it "a fantastic process" and said the council should support the environmental review. He said he hoped to see more wildlife returned to the area. 

said she'd like to see the Park District take a closer look at whether the beach could be shared by dog owners as well as other beachgoers. 

(The beach is as a de facto off-leash dog park. Officially, however, dogs are not allowed to run free in the area.)

Barton said earlier this week, after the council meeting, that the environmental review cannot, by law, consider a policy change about dogs at the beach because the Park District's Eastshore State Park General Plan sets aside only . Changing the official policy, he said, would require a change in the General Plan, which would have to be voted on by the State Park and Recreation Commission.

QUESTIONS ABOUT DEBRIS, WILDLIFE

During the public comment period in Monday's meeting, Caryl O'Keefe asked the council to look into what would happen to materials excavated from the beach. She said, at last week's meeting, there was some mention of a debris pile that would sit west of the burrowing owl habitat and plateau. 

Barton said Tuesday that excavated material would be handled on the site in two ways. Some of it will be used to cover recently exposed concrete and build up the "cap" west of the owl habitat, which he said has been "picked clean" by people scavenging for metal.

"It looks like a bomb went off," he said. "We'd be filling those holes, adding soil over the rocks and then planting them with grasses. That would probably open up some of the views over there." 

He said there will also be some piles of debris that will need to be hauled off by trucks, but that he didn't expect them to be very large. 

Former Mayor Allen Maris told the council Monday night that he'd like to see parts of the waterfront restored as habitat for animals like rabbits, birds and other species he'd seen in the area in the past. 

Barton said Tuesday that the fenced-off habitat protection area likely would become a space where more animals could live safely.

BOAT ACCESS ALSO UNLIKELY

Ken McCroskey told the council he hoped boat storage could be part of the plans.

"Many of us dream of a day when we could bike to the waterfront, unlock our shell or kayak and hit the water," he said. "We'll be writing a letter to the Park District to include that" for consideration. 

Barton said Tuesday that boat storage won't be part of the beach development project because, again, it's not part of the existing General Plan. The plan does provide for boat storage in the "north basin strip" area south of the Gilman Street ball fields. 

Barton said the General Plan calls for a more developed park area in Berkeley, including a possible youth hostel, boat house and other recreational uses. North of the Gilman ball fields and Golden Gate Fields, the park gets into a "conservation-type zone" in Albany with "compatible types of public access that help access the park: a place to park, use the restroom and be able to get down into the beach."

CHANGES NOT TOO FAR IN THE FUTURE

said Monday that she was "glad the Park District is putting funds into Albany. It's about time that happened."

Albany's community development director, Jeff Bond, said construction is planned to begin in 2013 along the neck, with the acquisition of the Bay Trail happening the same year. 

Barton said on Tuesday that, following the close of the current public comment period about the scope of the environmental review (EIR), he hoped to have a draft document available in the summer. 

At that time, people would be able to see a more detailed project description, and be able to comment on the document again. 

At the close of that comment period, he said, the Park District can begin to take action on the project. 

What do you think should be included in an environmental review of beach plans? Tell us in the comments. (But remember that ideas you'd like considered as part of the scope of the EIR must be .)

Click "Keep me posted" for an email alert when we cover waterfront issues in Albany. Read more here about Albany Beach.

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.

lubov mazur April 19, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I had hoped for a fenced off area to protect people from dogs.
Tatter Salad April 21, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Actually, Chris Barton painted changes with a very broad brush. He did not do this because he's being intentionally vague, but because nothing can happen without permits (from various agencies), and permit submissions ARE necessarily couched in the vague terms that obtain 'permit-permissions.' For instance, since 80% of their proposals cover (asphalt parking lot) they don't even own, how can that portion of their canvas be taken seriously? The Canadian Race track owner would LIKE to improve the property, so that he might flip-it, and turn a profit... he's not about to give away land unless there is a SUBSTANTIAL 'quid-pro-quo' - from the park or City of Albany. Second, Chris stated that the 'Phase 1, 2, 3' means absolutely nothing as to the sequence, or actual implementation of any changes. The goal in presenting it to Albany et.al?: PR, and... It's a requirement for the permit process;- any input THAT IS NOT sent to him in writing, and that does NOT address a line item or paragraph in their 'Environmental Review' document will fall on deaf ears. They do not want the bad PR they've absorbed in the City of Alameda (for failing to respond to petitions to allow dogs on a beach area there) to be repeated in the Albany/Berkeley area.

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