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. 


TO:         publicinformation@ebparks.org

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:  http://www.aldog.org/announcements-2.  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 publicinformation@ebparks.org

Send copies to staff and board members of East Bay Regional Park District
Robert Doyle, General Manager rdoyle@ebparks.org
Ana Alvarez, Deputy General Manager aalvarez@ebparks.org
Casey Brierley, Manager of Integrated Pest Management cbrierley@ebparks.org

Board of Directors:
Beverly Lane, Board President blane@ebparks.org
Whitney Dotson wdotson@ebparks.org
Dee Rosario drosario@ebparks.org
Dennis Waespi dwaespi@ebparks.org
Ellen Corbett ecorbett@ebparks.org
Ayn Wieskamp awieskamp@ebparks.org
Colin Coffey ccoffey@ebparks.org