The Albany Bulb is the former dump of the city of Albany, CA. It was built on landfill. The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) recently announced its intention to “restore” it as a native plant garden, though it admits that the word “restore” is a misnomer for a place that was never populated by native plants. Presently, the Bulb contains an eclectic collection of art built from the junk that remains from the dump. Non-native plants and trees thrive there with no care. Please visit our post about the Albany Bulb for photos of this colorful and unique recreational and artistic resource.
We recently had the opportunity to express our opinion of plans for the Albany Bulb in a conversation with the Assistant General Manager of Planning/Stewardship & Development of EBRPD. We told the manager that it is pointless to destroy the Albany Bulb because it is an artificial place in which native plants are not more native than what grows there now without any care. It is a heavily used place that does not require any “improvements.” It is therefore a waste of money to destroy something that everyone loves just as it is.
The manager told us that we would also love the native plant garden once it is done. He said that visitors often object to plans for changes in their park, but that when the project is done, they are always happy with it. He urged us to visit Oyster Bay, a former dump for the city of San Leandro, also built on landfill. He said it is now a beautiful native plant garden that everyone is delighted to visit. And so, of course, we had to see this transformation because we want to know what is in store for the Albany Bulb.
This is what we found at Oyster Bay.
We found hundreds of stumps of trees that have been destroyed. Many of the trees are now resprouting. We wondered if the resprouts would be poisoned to prevent the trees from regenerating. If not, we wondered how long it would take for the trees to return.
The ground around the tree stumps was a labyrinth of the holes made by animals that had lived in them in the past. The animals have moved on, perhaps to the cover provided by trees nearby.
We found a green sea of non-native grass.
We found non-native broom and native coyote brush and close by huge piles of those same shrubs that have been mechanically cleared. We don’t know why they have been mowed down. We doubt that anyone would consider these debris piles a “park improvement.”
We found a small patch of native plants at the entrance of the park and a sign informing us that this scene of destruction is a “park improvement” project.
We also spoke to one of the few visitors we encountered on this beautiful spring Saturday. We asked if they had been coming to the park for a long time. They said that had. We asked how they felt about the changes in the park, without giving them any clues as to our own assessment. They readily volunteered that they didn’t understand why the trees were destroyed.
Once again, we are reminded that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Assuming that the park manager with whom we spoke about Oyster Bay has actually seen this park, and that he sincerely believes that it is a lovely native plant garden, we must beg to differ. Although it is a beautiful park, it has not been improved by the needless destruction of trees and vegetation. The beauty of this park derives from its diverse collection of predominantly non-native plants and trees. We hope that it will not be further damaged by an agenda that is devoted to native plants, not to the enjoyment of park visitors. Likewise, the Albany Bulb is unlikely to be improved by destroying plants, trees, and art that is all doing just fine without any intervention by the East Bay Regional Park District. We urge the Park District to LET IT BE!