insidebayarea.com wrote: Albany Beach restoration plan challenged By Damin Esper Correspondent Posted: 01/31/2013 10:32:54 AM PST Updated: 02/02/2013 05:21:13 AM PST
ALBANY -- Canines and some recreational users are the basis of a legal action challenging the Environmental Impact Report for the restoration of Albany Beach.
A lawsuit filed Jan. 17 by a group called Sustainability, Parks, Recycling and Wildlife Defense Fund (SPRAWLDEF) claims the East Bay Regional Park District, which is working on the restoration, has allowed "dogs to run wild, damaging the San Francisco Bay wildlife," and that the EIR left "unanalyzed the impacts of windsurfers upon endangered eel grass."
Norman La Force of SPRAWLDEF said his group believes there are a number of problems with the environmental report.
"The EIR has failed to address the impact of off-leash dogs on the beach area," he said. "People who do not have dogs, or even if they do have dogs and want to enjoy that experience or have children, no longer have that experience."
Dogs -- both on- and off-leash -- have become a contentious issue in parks around the Bay Area. Officially, dogs are banned from using state parkland. But Albany Beach has become an attraction magnet for dog owners over the years. The beach is part of the Sylvia McLaughlin State Park, but is managed by the regional park district, which also has a nearby dog park at Point Isabel in Richmond.
Ted Radosevich, district counsel for the EBRPD, said the beach has been used by dog owners for decades, predating it being a state park.
"When you do a project, you have to look at the current conditions and look at whether there will be adverse environmental impacts if you do the project," he said. "Our project will create a fenced off habitat area where dogs will not be allowed. There will be a picnic and staging area where dogs will have to be on leash. We've tried to balance the conflicting needs and issues of the East Bay public, which is not an easy thing to do. Right now, dogs can go pretty much anywhere. Our project will restrict dogs."
La Force said that he helped expand the dog area at Point Isabel and that he's not against dogs. However, he said the consequences dogs have on the environment can be huge.
"Dogs have an impact on wildlife, chasing birds," he said. "That weakens the birds in terms of the ability to rest and to forage. And there's the aesthetic impact that dogs off-leash aren't controlled as well by the owners, or at all, and this has caused impacts on other park users, particularly the elderly and young children."
The other focus of the SPRAWLDEF lawsuit is the use of the beach by boaters and windsurfers. A planned parking lot could make it easier for those with watercraft to access the beach. SPRAWLDEF claims that will be bad for eel grass in the area.
"They want to facilitate people going out in small craft in the area of the eel grass bed," La Force said. "The response in the EIR is, 'We don't think it's going to be a problem and if it is, we'll just figure something out.' Well, that's not appropriate. This is an endangered plant that used to be prominent in the area. It's not a plant species that you just throw the seeds out and, gee, it comes back. It needs certain conditions for it to be able to thrive."
Radosevich said that all of the state agencies responsible have examined the eel grass issue and none have objected.
"That's what we've looked at and analyzed, and we don't believe it will happen," he said. "Clearly, if down the road there are impacts, we're a responsible public agency, we'll look at the real impacts that develop," Radosevich said. "We feel that from an environmental document viewpoint, we've satisfied the law."
In another development, neighboring Golden Gate Fields has also challenged the EIR as part of an eminent domain lawsuit EBPRD filed to complete the Bay Trail on land owned by the racetrack.
EBRPD and Golden Gate Fields had negotiated for several years over the strip of land behind the parking lot of the racetrack. Attorneys for Golden Gate Fields could not be reached for comment.
Radosevich said he expected the two actions would be consolidated. He added that he felt positive about the restoration project.
"Long term, the district will provide the trail and we will provide the public access," he said. "It's a great public need and that's what we're committed to achieve."
Just in case any ladies here are interested, it seems one of the members of this 4-person group with the title of "Director, Board of Directors" is "Single and always looking", drives a Drives 1966 Mercedes 250S and can be possibly be contacted through their 'CONTACT INFO & BOLG" link...
I'm fine with them banning windsurfing at the Track, just as long as they don't ban kitesurfing
seriously, they have no evidence to show that "windsurfers" are negatively affecting eel grass; it's just an assumption
on the other hand, the boats that 2 of the directors are posed in front of on their website, are known to rip eel grass to shreds with their razor sharp keels. It would be much better for the environment to scuttle their fleet of elitist, lawsuit-filing, entitlement-minded, lawyer-recreating, yachts
I am sympathetic to getting the homeless camps out of the Bulb, it's getting crazy crowded there. You think the folks camped out there find time to make it to a Port-O-Potty, or just go right in the bay?
Below is from this thread on Iwindsurf forum...the poster is Jim McGrath(mac) SFBA vice president and a Bay Conservation and Development Commissioner. http://www.bcdc.ca.gov/mission.shtml
Let me see if I can clear up a few things. First, eel grass is not as common in San Francisco Bay as most biologists expect. There is a large bed in San Pablo Bay and smaller beds near the base of the Bay Bridge, near the Emeryville Shoal, near the Treasure Island ramp, and in the lee of the breakwater at the entrance channel to the Richmond Harbor. Windsurfers have sailed out of Berkeley and Emeryville, and run into the fronds near the Emeryville shoal for decades, and there is no no evidence that it has had any adverse impact on the bed. Eel grass is a valuable habitat, and depends on water clarity and soil that is not too muddy.
Second, some members of the Sierra Club are extremely hostile to public access, and are willing to develop arguments that seriously stretch the science to support their hostility. The same guy who is behind this lawsuit also opposed the Bay Trail extension near Buchanan Street, when it was proposed about a decade ago. That area continues to be heavily used by waterbirds, with different species present at different tidal stages, despite heavy use of the Bay Trail. The Bay Trail project was approved over his objections. Many members of the Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP) support improved access to the water, although they oppose dog use. The Sierra Club representative was unable to secure CESP support in opposing increased public access, either before the East Bay Regional Park District Board, or in the lawsuit. The State park plan designates this area for access to the water, and it has been used for kite access for a number of years--while eel grass beds have been increasing. So the East Bay Regional Park District said in the final EIR that there is already substantial use of the area, and their project, which would increase the size of the beach and the area where eel grass is expected to grow, would have net environmental benefits. That is, there will be more eel grass and more access.
SFBA and our allies among the kayakers, particularly at Bay Access, continue to support real biological science. In cases like this, the bias against public access is seen by many in the public arena as bias and advocacy, not as well reasoned objections.
I do think that the update on the SFBA site is accurate. The launch here is east of the stronger wind, and is used far more by kites than windsurfers. Of course, as such, with the shorter fins on kiteboards and the fact that eel grass fronds are under water except at extreme low tides, it is nearly impossible to imagine kite fins doing any appreciable damage to the submerged beds.
Thanks for the link to the editorial. You can fill out their contact form letting them know if you are opposed to their actions, but letters can also be sent to:
SPRAWLDEF 802 Balra Drive El Cerrito, CA 94530
The editorial and (most of) the following comments make much more sense than this small groups continued efforts do (which, as the author of the editorial stated, do seem to alienate just about everyone in the public).
Paul Kamen here, and thanks for the good words about my Op Ed in Berkeleyside.
Berkeleyside has become the forum of record for online debate on local issues, so please jump in and add to the discussion. It would be good if enough interest is shown to prompt Berkeleyside to do a feature on the SPRAWLDEF and GGF suits against the Park District's Beach Restoration and Access project. http://tinyurl.com/bzs46mz
Please check out the CDAWGS site at http://www.cdawgs.org and consider joining the mailing list. CDAWGS is the Coalition for Diverse Activities on Water, Grass and Sand.
The problem with advocating for water access for non-motorized and hand-launched boating is that we are a very small constituency, and our voice can be easily ignored by park planners and politicos with virtually no consequences. Not so the dog lobby - they are an incredibly powerful voice in park and waterfront planning. And while the off-leash advocates can't claim any kind of moral high ground, they certainly outnumber any other interest group by a very wide margin. The next most powerful is probably the playing field advocates.
If we look at how the Eastshore State Park has been planned and implemented over the last two decades, it's clear that dogs and sports fields, either as part of various plan revisions or de facto, have made major gains. Water access improvement has been consistently ignored or blocked.
While it's true that we generally don't have the same goals as the dog people or the soccer moms, we do seem to always run up against the same adversaries making the same arguments against these active uses.
Hence the formation of the CDAWGS coalition. We need the clout that only comes with the 40% of Bay Area households that include a dog. We need these voices to help us keep the best launch sites and sailing areas open, and maybe even get in on some facilities improvements (washdown areas, changing rooms, on-site storage) as part of future waterfront plans.
I'd like to thank you for being an apparently sane person that actively promotes a balanced approach in dealing with these issues of public access. Too many times the folks that get themselves involved in public advocacy are just pure nut jobs that can't see the forest for the trees, which is quite ironic for folks that are nature lovers.
I've grown up a nature lover my whole life, as have most of the folks on this forum. I did take a look at the lawsuit through the link you posted and found a couple of interesting things:
1) They state in the lawsuit that all dogs must be leased. Oops. I own my dog. 2) Why is it that folks on either side of the political spectrum feel compelled to abuse quotation marks? Why in the world do they constantly refer to non-motorized craft as "non-motorized" craft? Are they trying to imply we have some hidden intent to muck up the planet?
This lawsuit is a perfect example of how organizations like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace alienate natural allies by allowing their agendas to be hijacked by myopic nutcases. It is a little crazy when they start putting folks that use pure natural muscle power or wind power to enjoy the beauty of the Bay Area on the other side of the fence.
In this case, Sprawldef takes their mission of defending the Bay against landfills and promoting wildlife habitat (which I think everybody on this forum would support) and allows it to be perverted.....one gets the sense that the individuals involved behind the lawsuit become incensed at the mere sight of a dog off-leash or someone kiting or windsurfing on the Bay. That's just kind of bizarre.
Purists that envision a pristine wildlife preserve in the middle of one of the most densely populated urban areas in the United States are a little bit off their rockers, in my opinion. Historic recreational usage of places around the bay should be protected too, as long as reasonable review indicates no extreme impact on the environment.
All too often there is an assumption that human activity degrades habitat which is not documented. Case in point is the GGNRA's attempts to restrict dogs at Ocean Beach citing impact on snowy plovers, when their own studies actually documented simultaneous increases in the plover population at times when dogs were allowed in the area. Sprawldef's assumptions on the eel grass are nothing short of mind boggling.
If these guys are environmentalists, I'm not. And I hate to say that as it is completely at odds with how I've viewed myself for my whole life.
They are doing all of us that care about the environment a huge disservice. We need more folks like you with a reasonable and balanced view.....which better serve our common interests.