Parks for the future, not the past

East Bay Regional Park District is preparing to put a parcel tax on the ballot in 2018 that will extend the funding of park improvements for another 15 years.  The public has been invited to tell the park district what improvement projects should be funded by the parcel tax in the future.  We are publishing a series of such public comments that we hope will inspire the public to submit their own suggestions to the park district. 


CC:         Board of Directors

FROM:  Park Advocate

RE:          Suggestion for Measure CC Projects

Climate change is the environmental issue of our time.  The climate has changed and it will continue to change.  If park improvement projects are going to be successful, they must have realistic goals that take into consideration the changes that have occurred and the changes anticipated in the future.

The restoration of native grassland is an example of a project that is not realistic, given current environmental conditions.  Grassland in California has been 98% non-native annual grasses for over 150 years.  Mediterranean annual grasses were brought from Mexico to California by the cattle of the Spaniards in the early 19th century.

David Amme is one of the co-founders of The California Native Grass Association and was one of the authors of East Bay Regional Park District’s “Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Resource Management Plan” while employed by EBRPD. In an article he wrote for Bay Nature he listed a few small remnants of native grasses in the East Bay and advised those who attempt to find them, “As you go searching for these native grasses, you’ll see firsthand that the introduction of the Mediterranean annual grasses is the juggernaut that has forever changed the balance and composition of our grasslands.”   That article is available HERE.

The park district seems to understand the futility of trying to transform non-native annual grassland to native bunch grasses.  Here are two signs in two of the EBRPD’s parks that acknowledge the reality of California’s grassland.

Serpentine Prairie, April 2017
Tilden Park, Inspiration Point, October 2016

Yet, despite this acknowledgement, the park district continues to expand its efforts to transform the parks into native grassland.  Park visitors recently observed a failed experiment to introduce native grasses to one of the parks.  Six plots of ground were fenced.  Two of the plots were control plots in which whatever non-native weeds had naturalized were allowed to grow unmolested.  Two of the plots were mulch/seeded with native grasses and two of the plots were fabric/seeded with native grasses.  There was no observable difference in plant composition or abundance between the seeded and unseeded plots.  There was no observable difference in the outcome of the two different seeding methods that were used.  In other words, native grasses were not successfully introduced to this park.  My correspondence with the EBRPD employee who was responsible for this project is attached.

Albany Bulb, April 2017
Albany Bulb, April 2017

The park in which this experiment was conducted is Albany Bulb.  Albany Bulb is the former garbage dump of the City of Albany.  It was built on landfill in the bay.  The soil is not native and there were never any native plants on it.  It does not seem a promising candidate for a native plant “restoration.”  Unfortunately, Albany Bulb is not an atypical park along the bay.  There are many other parks along the bay that were built on landfill and in which the park district is attempting to establish native plant gardens.  This does not seem a realistic objective for these parks.





Albany Bulb April 2018

Update:  One year after the experimental planting of native wildflowers at Albany Bulb, there is no evidence of that effort.  The trail-sides are mowed weeds and the upslope from the trail is studded with blooming non-native oxalis and wild radish. 

Albany Bulb. Non-native wildflowers. April 2018

Albany Bulb will soon be closed to the public for a major “improvement” project.   Albany Landfill Dog Owners Group and Friends expects the park to be closed for about one year.  They are unsure if the park will allow dogs off leash when the park re-opens.  More information about the “improvement” project is available on their website:  They suggest that you sign up on their website to be notified of the progress of the project and the status of the re-opening of the park.




This is not to say that there aren’t many worthwhile park improvement projects that are both realistic and needed.  Dredging Lake Temescal is an example of a worthy project.  As you know, Lake Temescal was a popular place for people to swim until recently.  In the past few years it often has been closed to the public because of toxic algal blooms.  The algal blooms are caused by two closely related factors.  The water is warmer than it was in the past because of climate change and the lake is shallower than it was in the past because of sediment deposited into the lake.

Black crowned night heron in algal bloom, Lake Temescal, April 2017

The park district has tried to address this issue by using various chemicals to control the growth of the algae.  Although that has occasionally been successful for brief periods of time, it is not a long term solution to the problem.  Furthermore, it is a good example of why the park district uses more chemicals than necessary.  If the park district would address the underlying cause of the problem—that is, the depth of the lake—it would not be necessary to keep pouring chemicals into the lake.  Dredging Lake Temescal should be a candidate for Measure CC funding.

And so I return to the point of this suggestion for Measure CC:  Please plan projects that take into consideration the reality of climate change, that address the underlying causes of environmental issues, and that have some prospect for success.

Thank you for your consideration.

Send your comments regarding Measure CC renewal to

Send copies to staff and board members of East Bay Regional Park District
Robert Doyle, General Manager
Ana Alvarez, Deputy General Manager
Casey Brierley, Manager of Integrated Pest Management

Board of Directors:
Beverly Lane, Board President
Whitney Dotson
Dee Rosario
Dennis Waespi
Ellen Corbett
Ayn Wieskamp
Colin Coffey

7 thoughts on “Parks for the future, not the past”

  1. do you ever send article opinions to chronicle?

    *R* o b i n *S* h e r r e r c: 4 1 5 . 5 3 3 . 6 0 8 3 *r o b i n s h e r r e r . . .*

    On Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 8:01 AM, Death of a Million Trees wrote:

    > milliontrees posted: “East Bay Regional Park District is preparing to put > a parcel tax on the ballot in 2018 that will extend the funding of park > improvements for another 15 years. The public has been invited to tell the > park district what improvement projects should be funde” >

    1. Ah, Robin. You wish. I have bombarded the Chronicle with Letters to the Editor and op-eds. I have also sent many emails to the Editor, pleading for even-handed coverage of our issue. The Chronicle has never printed fair coverage of this issue, with few exceptions. I think Lizzie Johnson’s articles about SF’s parks have been balanced.

      But I never say “never.” Why don’t you write one? They might need to hear from someone new. Lonely voices are easily ignored.

  2. Thank you for this excellent article and for all your hard work. I so agree. It’s been heartbreaking for photographer, birder, and other friends to see some of their favorite bay parks basically destroyed by the intensive tree killing because of the nativist plans to “restore” land that had once been under the bay. Instead of feeling grateful that any trees or shrubs could grow in such places, they just kill them.

    Not much use in going to photograph unusual hummingbird species at the Albany bulb when all the trees and shrubs that attracted the birds have been destroyed.

    I’m guessing there is more backstory to many of the problems with our parks. It was decades ago that I heard that a new planting above Lake Temescal had washed into the lake after heaving rains. It wasn’t just the soil that went into the lake, but toxic artificial fertilizer, which can smother lakes by removing oxygen, plus would feed the algae blooms. I’m guessing that this could have been avoided by not using toxic chemicals, but also not making the soil above the lake be loose and easily eroded during the rainy season. No mention was made of how the health of the fish, birds, other animals, and swimming humans would be affected by being in water with toxins.

    1. I’m glad you mentioned the hummingbirds at Albany Bulb. About 5 years ago we had a conversation at Albany Bulb with a graduate student from UC Berkeley who was writing a Ph.D. dissertation about hummingbirds. He said Albany Bulb was a great place to see hummingbirds. This was before EBRPD started destroying non-native plants at the Bulb and attempting to replace them with native plants. At the time there was valerian, mustard, fennel, broom, wild radish…all the usual non-native plants that thrive without any maintenance.

      It’s a shame the hummingbirds can’t speak for themselves. We must do what we can to protect them from these destructive projects that deprive them of what they need.

      1. And you are helping them! I so agree. Plus the trees they killed will make it windier and harder for birds to survive there. It is criminal that we have no vote on this or much else. So we go to parks we’ve loved for decades and they are unrecognizable because of the killing and poisoning, without our permission, against our will. We need accountability for those who kill trees, just as when a human is killed.

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