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Eastshore State Park Walk

This walk was led by Susan Schwartz in October 1999.

The Bayshore Trail now extends from the Richmond Marina to Point Isabel. The segment from Point Isabel south to the Albany Bulb is nearing completion. Walking south from the Albany Bulb, along the privately owned waterfront of Golden Gate Fields, you can enter the new Eastshore State Park south of Gilman. There is wonderful exploring in the undeveloped park from Seabreeze Market at University Avenue and Frontage Road, to the Albany Bulb with its sandy beach, lagoons, and squatter-created art.

The Pre-Gold Rush Waterfront

The Spanish exploring San Francisco Bay found an unusual bayfront in what is now Berkeley. Largely because of the strong tidal currents opposite the Golden Gate, salt marshes and willow groves did not dominate. Instead, a crescent of sand, the Berkeley Bight, stretched along most of the Berkeley waterfront. This gradually sloping sandy beach lay about where today's I-80/I-580 freeway runs now. One notable break in the beach, the willow marsh at the mouth of Strawberry Creek, was edged by a Native American village. Similar villages lay at the marshy mouth of larger Temescal Creek in today's Emeryville, and on the northeast side of Albany Hill, where rocks with mortar holes worn by Ohlone women remain near a remnant of the marsh at the confluence of Middle and Cerrito Creeks. Firm land lay behind the sandy crescent from north of Strawberry Creek to about today's Delaware. (Here Jacob¹s Landing, built in 1853, became the nucleus of Oceanview.) Starting at about today's Virginia Street, however, a brackish slough ran north behind the bight. Along with tidal bay water, it was fed by Schoolhouse Creek at its south end, by Codornices Creek spilling over a low, grassy plain, and by Marin Creek near today's Buchanan, where the slough reached the Bay. The Codornices channel between the Freeway and Golden Gate Fields roughly follows the slough¹s course. West of the slough, the sandy crescent ended at a jutting sandstone remnant of an old chain of hills. This outcrop, called El Cerrito del Sud or Southern Little Hill by the Spanish, was renamed Fleming Point, for a goldrush-era San Francisco butcher who bought it from Domingo Peralta, son of the Spanish land grantee. The top of Fleming Point, now Golden Gate Fields racetrack, has been leveled, but the rocky bit of golden sandstone bluff on the Bay side is the only remaining fragment of the area¹s original shoreline.

Industry and Destruction of the Beach

From the 1850s until about 1920, farmers and town dwellers in Oceanview, Berkeley, and Albany, and even vacationing San Franciscans enjoyed the beach. But they also destroyed it, hauling off sand for construction. With completion of the Union Pacific railroad in 1869, the area became industrial: soap, paint, cigars, starch, flour, lumber, beer, tanning, and canning were among the products. Most spectacular were the dynamite plants. Driven out of the San Francisco dunes after causing too many explosions, dynamite manufacturing briefly found a home on the north side of Fleming Point in the 1870s before the continuing explosions drove it northwest of Albany Hill and finally to Point Pinole.

Filling the Waterfront

Most of the filling of the waterfront took place after 1924, when garbage collection became a city responsibility. In Albany, construction debris created the peninsula now called the Albany Bulb. In Berkeley, garbage fill moved gradually north from the boundary at Codornices Creek. Fill turned the Berkeley Wharf, first built in 1875, into lower University Avenue. But the wharf¹s massive timbers remain, making humps in the road as the garbage rots and subsides. Plans advanced for this new Berkeley/Albany waterfront have been many and various. The railroad secretly bought up the privately owned Berkeley tidelands and advanced plans for a huge commercial port, only to deadlock against another plan, with piers running at right angles to its desires. In the 1940s an international airport was proposed; in the 1950s a virtual town doubling the size of Berkeley. A plan for a Worlds Fair site would have filled from Richmond to Oakland.

Eastshore State Park, Shoreline Trail

In 1982, conservationists were galvanized by plans by Catellus (successor to the railroad¹s land holdings) for 3.8 million square feet of development. The proposal led to the founding of Citizens for the Eastshore State Park (CESP), a coalition led by the San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Audubon Society, and the Sierra Club. Their lobbying led to creation of the state park; purchase of the land was finally completed in late 1998. The next step is the planning and actual creating of the park. The former dump has become a significant wildlife refuge, supporting, among other creatures, chorus frogs, rabbits, ground squirrels, geese, ducks, shorebirds, egrets, herons, rails, falcons, harriers, and kingfishers. It also is a magnet for trash, squatters, and invasive pest plants. Strawberry Creek's mouth now is an unprepossessing pipe on the south side of University, west of Seabreeze Market. Schoolhouse Creek also ends in a pipe, where the broad Meadow narrows to the North Basin Strip. These creeks could be daylighted, with Schoolhouse in particular becoming a salt marsh or willow marsh. The small salt marsh south of Buchanan, at the mouth of Codornices and Marin Creeks, is owned by Golden Gate Fields, and is badly in need of restoration and enlargement. Completing the East Bay Shoreline Trail is another challenge. The only missing link between Richmond and Emeryville is now Golden Gate Fields. As you explore, think of what you would like to see here, and make your ideas known.

Further Information

California State Parks
http://www.parks.ca.gov

 

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Last updated: 29 January, 2012