Open Space Plans at Risk

Red line = Northwest Territories. Blue line = Wildlife Refuge. Yellow line = Where security fence is proposed.

A feasible plan recently emerged for creating and managing parkland and a bona fide wildlife refuge on the 770-acre runway area at Alameda Point.  It’s the first since the Naval Air Station closed 15 years ago.

But two things stand in the way.  The City of Alameda is delaying the effort by requesting money from the East Bay Regional Park District for land the city is getting for free. And the Navy plans to deny public access to a section of the wildlife refuge and scenic open space by erecting a security fence around 110 acres on the refuge shoreline.

At the June 6 city council meeting where the disposition strategy for Alameda Point was being discussed, environmentalists spoke out on both issues concerning the Point’s open space plans.

The city will be getting the proposed parkland parcel on the northern part of the runway area at no cost from the Navy.  The East Bay Regional Park District has agreed to develop and manage that land as a regional park and trail system.  But the city wants the district to spend part of its $6.5 million Measure WW Alameda Point money to acquire the land from the city.  The city wants the money for a sports complex.  Talks between the city and the park district stalled over the money issue.

At the city council meeting, the Sierra Club submitted a letter supporting the park district’s proposal and opposing the city’s request for Measure WW funds as an inappropriate use of voter-approved project monies.

The Navy’s fence proposal on the wildlife refuge property, which the park district is poised to manage on behalf of the new owner – the Veterans’ Administration, also garnered some attention at the June 6 meeting.

The Navy is proposing to install a six-foot-high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire around the 110-acre environmental remediation site.  The area to be fenced in includes the most scenic part of the federal land along the edge of the bay, 30 acres of tidal and freshwater wetlands, and a landfill that will be covered with at least two feet of clean delta soil, and seeded with native grasses and wildflowers.  Across the skyline behind the fence, the Navy plans to erect 30 ten-foot-high methane gas vents.  The Navy’s pretext for the fence is that it will protect the soil cover, gas vents, and ground level concrete and cast iron monitoring equipment situated on the site.

This remedy takes “what promised to be a landmark, place-making naturalist open space and treats it like an off-limit toxic dump,” voiced Paul Kibel, co-director of Golden Gate University’s Center for Urban Environmental Law.  “What should be highlighted is hidden and degraded.”  Kibel submitted a letter to the council.

Pointing to other former landfill sites that have been repurposed for open space, trails and habitat, and that do not include exclusionary fencing and tall gas vents, Richard Bangert of the Alameda Point Restoration Advisory Board surmised:  “This leaves us thinking that the Navy is not working in line with Alameda’s and the region’s long-term goals of creating a publicly accessible wildlife refuge.”

The deadline for submitting comments to the Navy about the proposed fence is July 9.  Write to Derek Robinson, Environmental Coordinator at derek.j.robinson1@navy.mil.

Originally published in Alameda Sun.

Related Story:  Scenic Alameda Point Wildlife Refuge Section to be Off Limits with Security Fence.

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4 Responses to Open Space Plans at Risk

  1. katherine taylor says:

    can alameda refuse to take the property unless and until it is unfenced? if the navy wants to keep people off it, let them keep it.

  2. Irene says:

    The fence is proposed for the property slated to go to the Veterans Administration, not to the City of Alameda. The VA’s position on the fence is unknown. If the fence gets built, it will be extremely difficult to get it torn down, as it will have to go through cumbersome administrative procedures.

  3. katherine taylor says:

    Can Alameda refuse to let the VA/East Bay Regional Park District use the northwest territories for the VA hospital /park plan unless and until the VA refuses to accept the wildlife refuge part with the fence and unsightly vents? I haven’t been following this very closely, but it seems the Navy wants and needs to get rid of the Alameda Point parcels, the VA wants and needs a place to put a veterans hospital, and someone to maintain the land around that hospital, the EBR Park District want to take care of the land because they think they can do a better job than anybody else, and Alameda wants a VA hospital, veterans park and wildlife refuge to spur other development. Everybody except the Navy should be in agreement not to take the land with the fence and vents. Would that work?

  4. Irene says:

    The hope is that the Navy will learn, through the public comment period, that a fence is not acceptable to the community. The Navy may not have known how important public access is to the region and Alamedans.

    It’s hard to know what the VA thinks because much of the decision-making is done behind closed doors without public input. Hopefully the VA will also comment against the fence.

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