Promising news! Amidst the flurry of environmental review activity focused on developing Alameda Point, there’s a renewed effort for conserving wildlife habitat there.
Councilmembers Stewart Chen and Tony Daysog have co-sponsored a resolution affirming the City of Alameda’s support for the creation of a Nature Reserve at the Point.
The resolution highlights the history of plans for a wildlife refuge and calls for a conservation zoning designation on the 511-acre federal runway area adjacent to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) future outpatient clinic and columbarium.
“I believe the open space designation in the reuse plan is equally as important as the current mixed-used area,” stated Chen.
The city said the zoning would not have a mandatory effect on the feds, but would be a statement of the city’s position. Let’s make that statement. It might even prompt the VA to respond in-kind with similar terminology on its land use map.
Because the Navy is about to transfer the property to the VA, now is the perfect time to affirm our support for limited public access to the area while the least terns are not breeding. We need more than a fenced-off Bay Trail along the property’s perimeter and a commitment to just one bird. How else can the public ever learn to appreciate all the species living at Alameda Point without being allowed out there? How will we ever acquire funding so this rare, undeveloped bayside parcel can achieve its full potential as a conservation area without public commitment?
Since the planes quit landing and the vehicles quit driving around, many more birds now come to Alameda Point. The site has hosted 187 species, and 23 species of birds have been documented breeding there. There are white crowned sparrows, killdeer, turkey vultures, peregrine falcons, horned larks, and Lincoln’s sparrows, and even an occasional golden eagle. There are various wetland birds, such as egrets, black-necked stilts, and great blue herons. As for me, I’ve fallen in love with the burrowing owl. It’s beautiful!
“We hope eventually to open this space to the public for an incredible passive, educational, and even spiritual experience during fall and winter months. Any deviation from open space zoning puts this great dream at risk,” Leora Feeney, speaking on behalf of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, told the city council. “The VA has a nature center in their plans,” said Feeney. “We need open space to have nature.”
Open space could be the defining centerpiece for Alameda Point, around which all other development will revolve, if we work to make that happen. Perhaps one day the VA will offer a 100-year lease to an agency equipped to enhance certain areas with vegetation, more wetlands, and meandering trails.
Noting that there is an “ecosystem of information, strategies and actions” calling for a wildlife area, Councilmember Daysog asked, “Can we still fulfill our goals with the reality that we are now working with the VA?” I say, passing the resolution is a starting point.
It comes up for a vote before the city council on March 19.
Originally published in Alameda Sun