Off-leash dog walkers and artists are howling mad over the final plan for the bayside Eastshore State Park. The plan set to be released this week forbids both groups from using a favorite stretch of Albany coastline.
“The only thing I feel is disgust. All this proves is that it doesn’t matter... what the users of the park want,” said Jill Posener of Albany Let It Be. The group had called for a roughly 40–acre parcel, called the Albany Bulb, to remain open to off-leash dog walkers and a group of artists that paint on washed-up driftwood.
The plan finalized last week includes long-debated changes that have received the support of environmentalists and playing field advocates, but make dog walkers and artists feel further alienated. The proposed park plan, which embraces 8.1 miles of coast stretching from Emeryville to Richmond, still needs to be approved by the State Parks Commission this December.
While dog walkers vented, environmentalists cheered after winning several late concessions from park planners.
“I’m extremely optimistic that the plan will contain language we can agree on,” said Robert Cheasty, president of Citizens for an Eastshore State Park (CESP).
Athletic fields currently slated for the Albany Plateau, just east of the bulb, will be moved, if a new site becomes available.
Members of the Sierra Club and CESP have been lobbying to switch the fields from the wild habitat in Albany to a paved lot in west Berkeley owned by Magna Entertainment Corporation. The company is currently negotiating with the East Bay Regional Park District over the sale of the property.
Planners have also agreed to make the construction of a boat launch planned for the north Berkeley coast contingent on the results of a study reviewing the effects of kayaks and boats on migrating sea birds.
The year-long park planning process has been marred by animosity between environmentalists and recreation advocates.
Dog walkers now insist that their interests have been put below those of environmentalists and playing field advocates which they say had better access to state planners.
“We didn’t even need a public process,” Posener said. “Ultimately they went into the back room and did the deal they wanted to do.”
Neuwirth, though, insisted that off-leash dog walkers made out well under the final plan. “Twenty percent of the park is for off-leash dogs more than any other in California,” he said adding that planners determined that off-leash dogs intimidate people and would chase away sea birds around the bulb.
Posener contended that off-leash dogs have been a fixture at the bulb for years, during which time birds started flocking to the area in greater numbers.
Regarding the artists, Neuwirth said he was open to letting them stay if they agreed to tone down their often sexually explicit work.
Posener, however, said the artists were never given a chance to bargain. “We went to a meeting with Neuwirth. He told us that you cannot have that kind of art in a family park. How do you negotiate with that?” she said.
Members of the State Park Commission, including Commissioner Clint Eastwood, are tentatively scheduled to convene Dec. 6 in Berkeley to rule on the plan. Construction of park facilities would get underway next year and could continue for more than a decade.
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