Posted on November 12, 2020
Nov. 20 ceremony to reopen park, celebrate marsh restoration and site improvements’ completion
Wildlife and people now have a beautiful, newly restored place to roam — Bay Point Regional Shoreline in eastern Contra Costa County.
Through an extensive and environmentally sensitive restoration project, the East Bay Regional Park District has returned the shoreline to its former natural state, with habitat for a multitude of animals and plants and an accessible trail from which park visitors can observe them.
Bay Point Regional Shoreline is located at the north end of McAvoy Road in the community of Bay Point, adjacent to McAvoy Boat Harbor. The park provides important shoreline access to tidal marshlands and waterfront open space. It’s one of the few public access points to the shore of the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta between Martinez and Oakley. The park is at the approximate midpoint of the San Francisco Bay Estuary and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Convergence of saltwater and freshwater there creates a rich and varied ecosystem.
The project involved restoring 30 acres of wetlands and grasslands back to their original state before dredging and marine use. High areas that had been filled during sand dredging operations were lowered to restore tidal marsh. Material excavated was used to raise the level of the park’s existing Harrier Trail, which has been redesigned for disabled access.
It was also designed to prevent flooding, even during potential sea level rise due to climate change. A bridge was installed over a newly excavated tidal channel. Another habitat improvement was a tidal marsh — a ponded area subject to ebbs and flows, surrounded by pickleweed, providing habitat for the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse and fish, including Delta and longfin smelt.
Park visitors will benefit from the project as well. Interpretive panels have been installed with information on the park’s natural history. The Harrier Trail is a paved, 1-mile loop, easy for walkers and people who use wheelchairs. There are picnic tables with shade structures, flush toilets, drinking water, benches and trail overlooks for wildlife viewing at the variety of habitats created by the project.
The area including Bay Point Regional Shoreline has a varied history. The first inhabitants were Native American tribes, of whom the last was the Chupcan, occupying the shore of Suisun Bay between what is now Port Chicago and Oakley. From the 1850s on, the site was between two Mexican land grants. It remained largely undisturbed until the 1950s through the 1980s, when its owners diked a section for settling ponds and a sand-dredging operation.
In 1978, a California District Court decree required that the J-shaped channel along the park’s eastern edge be dug to open the area to tidal action as mitigation for the sand dredging. East Bay Regional Park District acquired the property in 1996. A portion of the purchase price was provided by the Shell Oil Spill Litigation Settlement Trustee Committee.
Funding for the marsh restoration came from a variety of sources. The California Department of Parks and Recreation put in a total of $950,000 from its Land and Water Conservation Fund and Habitat Conservation Fund. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy’s Proposition 1 Water Bond contributed $2.1 million. Other funding came from Contra Costa County, the National Fish and Wildlife Service and the park district’s voter-approved measures, WW and AA. The project’s total cost was $5,362,912.
Completion of the marsh restoration and site improvements will be celebrated Nov. 20 in a ceremony that can be seen online at the park district’s website, ebparks.org. The park will be open to the public officially after the ceremony. The newly reopened park is a gateway to the Delta’s abundant natural world and a great place to go for a relaxing shoreline walk. Check it out; you’ll be glad you did.
Events calendar out: The November-December edition of “Regional in Nature,” the park district’s bimonthly calendar of events, is now available online at ebparks.org/RIN. This issue contains lots of articles about natural and cultural history of the regional parks. There are also games, food recipes and fun, self-directed activities for classrooms, kids and families. There’s also a section on the Regional Park Foundation’s goal, “Bridging the Nature Gap.” The foundation is a private nonprofit group with the sole purpose of supporting park district programs and facilities.
“We see a future moving beyond simply facilitating access and more toward creating a truly inviting and inclusive park experience, particularly for all Black, indigenous and people of color,” said Jess Brown, the foundation board president.
Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at email@example.com.