Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Breuner Marsh restoration project

"North Richmond shoreline transformed into open space"
2014-04-23 by Carolyn Jones []:
Odalys Ariza (left) and Liane Herzfeld, both 13, view wildlife during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Breuner Marsh restoration project, which will become part of Point Pinole Regional Shoreline. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

Students from Manzanita Charter Middle School in Richmond check out wildlife at Breuner Marsh. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

A raptor flies above the wetlands during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Breuner Marsh restoration project in Richmond, Calif. on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. When completed, the 50-acre wetlands site will become a part of the East Bay Regional Park District's Point Pinole park. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

The North Richmond shoreline has seen a lot of dumped mattresses, smokestacks and toxic plumes over the past century or so. But these days, it's among the greenest places in the Bay Area.
Thanks to 40 years of efforts by Richmond residents and environmental officials, a lush, 130-acre marsh near a dense housing complex is now permanent open space, officials said Tuesday.
"People in Richmond have been trying to save this place for years. Now we can finally say we won. We absolutely won," said Whitney Dotson, a Richmond native who represents the area on the East Bay Regional Park District board.

The wetland, called Breuner Marsh, lies between Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, the Amtrak railroad tracks and Parchester Village, a predominantly low-income and African American neighborhood. To the south is a gun club.
Over the years, Breuner Marsh was partially filled in and used as a concrete dumping zone, and various owners tried, to no avail, to build an airstrip, factories and industrial parks.
Children from Parchester Village, however, had no trouble finding a use for the marsh. Generations of them romped through the pickleweed and explored its mucky treasures.

Resisting development -
In fact, it was Parchester residents who, in the 1970s, led the charge to keep the marsh free of development. They fought with the city and with various owners, wrangling over plans to pave their tidal paradise.
Their efforts finally paid off in 2000, when the East Bay Regional Park District obtained the land through eminent domain and embarked on the long process of getting permits, legal approval and funding to clean up the marsh and restore it.
With all the hurdles finally cleared, the district plans to start restoration as early as next week.
"We're going to be moving dirt. Lots of dirt. It's going to be like a giant Tonka toy sculpting project," said the district's general manager, Bob Doyle.
The district spent $10 million to buy the land and plans to spend another $10 million on restoration. When it's through, in about two years, the marsh will be free of toxics, concrete chunks and nonnative plants, and contain a natural channel connecting Rheem Creek with San Francisco Bay.

Improved habitat -
The restored marsh should provide improved habitat for birds and other shoreline creatures, including the endangered California clapper rail. It will become part of the adjoining 1,500-acre Point Pinole Regional Shoreline.
The marsh will also host several hiking trails and about 1 1/2 miles of the Bay Trail, on an elevated boardwalk to keep cyclists clear of the railroad tracks and vegetation. The new Bay Trail segment will connect Point Pinole with the Richmond Parkway and points south.

'It's inspiring' -
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency kicked in $5 million for the project, citing its urban location.
"This isn't the Marin Headlands. This isn't Sonoma. This is one of the most industrialized shorelines in California," said Jared Blumenfeld, the agency's regional director. "People often feel that environmental problems are too big to do anything about. But this is a community that didn't have a lot of resources, and they did it. It's inspiring."
Ideally, the entire bay shoreline should be lined with wetlands, instead of freeways or buildings, to better prepare for sea level rise and catastrophic storms, Blumenfeld said.
About 100 people gathered at the marsh Tuesday to celebrate the groundbreaking for the restoration. Among them were a few classes of Richmond schoolchildren marking Earth Day.

Keeping animals alive -
Jada Holmes, 15, a student at Vista High School in Richmond, said she's not an avid hiker or bicyclist but still thinks the marsh should be saved.
"It's important, I think. You don't want animals to die," she said. "I'm happy - this'll be something to look forward to."

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