Happy Birthday, Sylvia!


Along with the Yule, December 24th marks the 98th birthday of Save The Bay’s co-founder Sylvia McLaughlin. Best wishes for this living legend have been pouring in to Save The Bay. Here are a few of the birthday tidings–feel free to leave your birthday message for Sylvia in the comments. Happy Birthday, Sylvia!

“On behalf of everyone at Save The Bay, I’m wishing you the very best on your 98th birthday. You are a true heroine, whose vision and determination changed the history of our region. You didn’t just make the Bay a better place; you created a movement that touched millions of lives. From the bottom of our hearts: Thank you.”
David Lewis, Executive Director, Save The Bay

“Dear Sylvia, dream girl. My favorite interviews took me to your places on the San Francisco Bay. You and your women pals had the vision to clearly see the problem and use smarts, grit and tact to win support for your solutions. You saved the bay. Without your intelligence, the shoreline that connects us to the water and the wetlands that feed the wildlife would have been filled for development. You brought parks instead of pollution. I honor you.
Jane Kay, environmental journalist

Sister you do good work!
Jfro Froiland

“Happy Birthday, Sylvia! Your extraordinary achievements as an active citizen embody what ‘civil society’ is about at its best. Whenever I look at our beautiful San Francisco Bay I thank you, and Kay Clark and Esther Gulick, for never giving up and never taking ‘no’ for an answer. You inspire us to keep working to Save the Bay, and Save the Planet.
Calif. Senator Loni Hancock

“Sylvia, I am a new Board member at Save The Bay. Thank you so much for the legacy you have left for all of us living in the San Francisco Bay Area! We will work hard in the coming years to keep your vision for the Bay alive and well. “
Bill Leimbach, Save The Bay Board of Directors

“Hi Sylvia! In honor of your birthday, I will spend some time cleaning up around my local river on the 24th so it won’t end up in the bay! We are all responsible. Thank you for your service! May we all pay it forward!
Kristin Alvarez Mack

“Happy Birthday you beautiful warrior! Watching your story changed my life – there is no way any of us can thank you enough for your vision, strength and courage. Warmest wishes”
Nancy Reyering

“All of us who live in the Bay Area benefit from the practical political battles you and your allies waged 53 years ago. Your vision, time, efforts, and persuasive talents saved the Bay–thank you. May your inspiring example encourage a new generation of citizen leaders to improve the world and communities we inherit.”
Michael Gallagher, Save The Bay Board of Directors

“Sylvia, The members of the Piedmont, Orinda, Marin, Woodside-Atherton, Hillsborough and Carmel Garden Clubs so appreciate your vision and all your hard work to Save the Bay.  We are following in your footsteps and pledge to continue your work to protect San Francisco Bay.  We are working with Save the Bay to help restore the bay by replanting native plants along the shoreline transition zone.  This helps provide habitat for native species of birds, mammals, pollinators and other beneficial insects.  It also protects the shoreline against storm surges and raising tides.  Sylvia, not only are you a Garden Club of America award winner, you are a role model for all of us!
Julia Burke, Piedmont Garden Club

“Sylvia—as a lifetime Bay Area resident I thank you for your leadership in saving the bay for me, my children and grandchildren!
Ron Gonzales, Save The Bay Board of Directors

“If there were a Mount Rushmore of Bay Area environmentalists, Sylvia should be there. Her indomitable spirit and persevering vision serve as an enduring source of inspiration for those who seek positive change against overwhelming odds. I’m delighted to join in celebrating the birthday of one of Berkeley’s most esteemed citizens.”
City of Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates

“Sylvia — You’re the Founder and the best client I ever had. Happy Birthday!
Lew Butler, founding member of Save The Bay

“Happy 98th Birthday Sylvia! Your amazing spirit and tenacity are an inspiration to me. I celebrate you every time I walk along the Bay shoreline or catch a glimpse of the Bay. Thank you for all you have done to protect our Bay!”
Kate Berry, Save The Bay

“Happy 98th birthday, Sylvia! We toast you and the leadership of women in the conservation movement, in this season of hope. Thank you especially for inspiring volunteers to do tidal wetland restoration projects such as the one our Woodside-Atherton Garden Club is doing in partnership with Save The Bay at the Palo Alto Baylands.”
Peggie MacLeod, Woodside-Atherton Garden Club

 “Best wishes for a very Happy Birthday! As one of the newest Board members of Save the Bay, I stand in awe and profound gratitude for the work you, Kay & Esther have done in preserving the beauty and viability of the San Francisco Bay Area. I am proud and honored to carry on your legacy towards a brighter future for us all and for generations to come.”
Henry Manayan, Save The Bay Board of Directors

You made the world a better place. Especially the tidal world that’s so filled with life. Congratulations for your next Birthday. May your day be filled with love and laughter.”
Michael Warner

“Happy birthday, Sylvia! Congratulations on turning 98 years young! I am constantly grateful for everything that you, Esther Gulick, and my grandma Kay did for the San Francisco Bay and for future generations. I appreciate it even more now that I’m a mother myself and I think about what kind of world my daughter will inherit.
Amber Catherine Kerr

“Happy Birthday Sylvia. What a wonderful gift you young ladies were to the Bay Area.”
Kitty Smith

Happy Birthday Sylvia and thank you for inspiring the Woodside-Atherton Garden Club’s Baylands Restoration Project.
Barb Seipp, Woodside-Atherton Garden Club

 “Happy birthday Sylvia!!!! You have lived an exemplary life for women everywhere! Each time my children and I enjoy the bay, our gratitude for what you, Esther, and my grandmother did grows.”

Sevgi Fernandez

“Happy Birthday to a truly visionary leader: So many people dream of Changing the World but so few actually succeed — what you achieved had ripple effects in waters worldwide!
Scott Lankford

Thank you for being such an inspiration to so many! Your accomplishments, conviction, generosity of spirit and formidable skills have enriched the Bay, the Bay Area, and beyond. All good wishes on your birthday.”
Sandy Linder, Save The Bay Board of Directors

We owe you such a debt of gratitude – words can’t begin… growing up in Berkeley watching the Bay go from dumps to restored habitats that future generations will enjoy – THANK YOU AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!”
Charles Graber

“Happy Birthday Angel of The Bay!”
Buffy Lou Stevens

“You have shown what conviction, perseverance, and tons of hard work can accomplish–and inspire in others. Thank you and happy birthday!
Mimi Campbell, Woodside-Atherton Garden Club

Happy Birthday, Sylvia

Wildlife is Resurgent – Reflections on National Wildlife Refuge Week

Photo by Rick Lewis

Last week, I accompanied Save The Bay’s habitat restoration director Donna Ball on a visit to our restoration site at the vast Eden Landing Ecological Reserve. As we drove along levees in various stages of restoration, I was transfixed by the copious birds: kites gliding inches above glassy waters of tidal marsh; osprey and hawks circling high above; a great blue heron here, a snowy egret there, each wading nonchalantly in the tide. The amazing thing out at Eden is that you’re standing at water level and can see the shimmering of cities of the Penninsula to the West, and rushing traffic on the San Mateo Bridge just to the north; you know you’re standing in the very heart of the Bay Area—and yet you are also in a whole different world: a secluded, natural oasis resurgent with wildlife. It’s pretty amazing.

It’s National Wildlife Refuge Week, a perfect time to reflect on the diversity of life on our Bay shores and in the Bay itself. To celebrate the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the creatures it helps protect, here’s a roundup of some of our favorite video and blogs on Bay wildlife.

Restored Wetlands Welcome Wildlife
In this 8-minute clip, NewsHour highlights our friends at the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, showing how restored wetlands welcome wildlife and protect against future floods

Leopards, Angels, and Hounds, Oh My! — Sharks in the San Francisco Bay
Did you know that San Francisco Bay has six resident shark species and one species of ray living in the San Francisco Bay, and several of those species are considered threatened or vulnerable?

Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, the Tiniest Endangered Species
There’s a unique mammal that makes its home among the reddish pickle weed in the low Bay Area’s tidal marsh, and which is so tiny most people have never even seen one. The salt marsh harvest mouse is mostly nocturnal, totally adorable, and, sadly, endangered.

The majestic birds of SF Bay
Bay Area Bird photographer Rick Lewis shares his stories of the majestic birds of San Francisco Bay, and why they’re worth saving. His photos pose the question: “How fortunate we are to live here along the Pacific Flyway, to have the privilege of catching our breath at the wonder of the wildness right here in our urban landscape, to share this habitat with the wildlife among us?”

Want get up close and personal and learn more about Bay wildlife? On Saturday, October 18, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge is hosting a day of wildlife science. Find the details here.

Time to Unplug

Grover Hot Springs, Markleeville, CA

“Remember, you’re here to relax and get away from it all,” my boyfriend says as I frantically try to post one last photo of my roadside lunch on Instagram. We’re in a hot car, driving in the middle of nowhere for a long-awaited camping trip that we scheduled months ago as a way for us to escape from our busy schedules. At the time it seemed like a good idea, but with the fading reception of my trusty smartphone and one final text message (To my cat sitter: “please make sure you use the blue plate to feed her, she does NOT like bowls because they touch her whiskers”), I can’t help but feel a little bit anxious. I’m not worried about the fact that we might get mauled by bears or that a meltdown might happen at work, but I can’t shake the eerie feeling of suddenly being disconnected from my friends and networks, from an outlet for my thoughts. As we pass historical ruins and kitschy roadside tourist traps I find myself composing posts in my head that I know would make my friends laugh or probably collect a lot of “likes,” only to be unable to share them. It is weird. With the realization that there is no outlet for these musings (and that my phone is more-or-less useless to me at this point), I reluctantly hold down the power button and shut my phone off.

When’s the last time you unplugged? I mean REALLY unplugged. No phone, no games, no need to share (or even think about sharing) with others what you are doing at that moment—a true break for your brain from the chatter of the world around you. The answer might surprise you.

As the Online Communications Manager at Save The Bay (and a full-fledged millennial), I not only spend a good portion of my life staring at a screen, but the majority of my waking hours thinking about what I’m going to share with my social networks and how I’m going to portray the story of my life. It’s ingrained and, some would argue impossible, to turn off the compulsion to compose my thoughts in 140-character snippets and take numerous selfies of my daily happenings for my devoted followers. It’s a way of thinking that I’ve been trained to follow – short, snappy blurb, meticulously angled photo (don’t forget the filter!), funny or popular hashtag. Maximize the share-ability. However, while this skillset has certainly been an asset in my career, in my personal life I often have to ask myself, am I judging the value of my experiences for their authenticity or for the number of likes and comments they collect? I know having a community makes life more enriching, but if you never escape from the pressures that network provides, can you truly ever be in the moment?

It’s an interesting conundrum—one that, during my camping trip, I’m glad I had the time to reflect upon. It took a few hours for the anxiety to subside, but without the physical means for me to post to social media, I suddenly found my senses heightened. I scanned the mountains with greater care, breathed deeper, listened closely to the crunch of the dried pine beneath my feet – all with the intent that, without any external aids, I would commit as much as I could to memory. I would never be here, at this exact spot, with these exact emotions ever again and there were no posts, likes or shares that would fully capture or validate the simplicity, honesty and integrity of the moment. For the first time in a while my thoughts were my own, not meant for public consumption.

As summer turns to fall and the Bay Area comes out to play, I’m becoming a believer that unplugging is absolutely necessary for people to truly enjoy the wonder and beauty San Francisco Bay and California have to offer. The Bay is precious, unique and valuable on its own. Maybe you don’t need to post that photo of you posing at the top of a mountain or checking in at a state park to enrich your experience. Instead, maybe you just need some mental peace. I know those are the moments that I will hold onto as I return to the daily grind.

We at Save The Bay always appreciate and enjoy your posts and comments, but we also encourage you to take some time to mentally unplug. Explore the amazing place we live! Turn the phone off, don’t worry about the moments your followers are missing and breathe deeply – you might just find that you are able to see the beauty around you more clearly than ever before.

Cycling, Couches, and Cans — Coming to a Roadside Near You

illegal dumping
Have you biked past a pile of trash like this? Be sure to report it. Photo: Melanie Wong

Before we get started there are a few things you should know about my relationship to bicycles. First off, my bike is the most expensive thing I own. I have been known to show up at Peet’s Coffee at 5:30am wearing spandex, I don’t ride anywhere without my bike computer, and I will even eat some of that goop-like substance they pass as “energy rich” food. Cycling is a vital part of my life and there is nothing better than pedaling along a twisting road with the wind in your face and smooth pavement beneath your wheels. The Bay Area is truly a beautiful place – and I maintain that one of the best ways to experience it all is on a bike.

However, as a cyclist who often takes the roads less traveled (at least by cars), I’ve come to realize a big problem that seems to plague the roadside of the beloved East Bay hills I frequent: mattresses, couches, vacuum cleaners, lampshades, old computers, weathered children’s toys and broken furniture all surrounded by a pile of cigarette butts and food wrappers. Without warning, these items seem to appear out of nowhere by the side of the road, abandoned illegally by their owners to avoid fees at the dump. Secluded roads seem to invite this illegal dumping since they are not frequently traveled by law enforcement and houses are few and far between. If you’re a cyclist, you know what I’m talking about.

At first it’s a little humorous (How in the world did that orange, suede couch get there?), but after a short amount of time it becomes more than an annoyance. This type of pollution poses a serious threat to wildlife and serves as a trap for food wrappers and smaller pieces of garbage. Illegally dumped household chemicals seep into the soil and poison the surrounding watershed, which connects to our San Francisco Bay.
As cyclists we have a great – arguably the greatest – investment in keeping these roads clean and publicly accessible. And, although there is no way I’m towing an abandoned bedframe up a hill, we can each do our part to respond to the problem.

How can I help, you ask? Report it. Even if you didn’t see the dumping happen, a simple action can keep that can of old paint from spending another day by the side of the road. In my hometown of Oakland, I use the handy See Click Fix app on my phone that allows me to send a photo of the pollution and automatically sends the city my location. What if you only see it whizzing by while descending at 40+ mph? Don’t stop of course! Make a mental note and put in your report when you take a break. What if you see a dumping in progress? Don’t confront them. Your mini-bike pump will not work for self-defense. Instead call 311 (or your non-emergency police hotline) and if possible, note the license plate, make/model of vehicle and description of the violator.

I admit, cyclists are sometimes part of the litter problem (there are plenty of energy bar wrappers out there too – you know who you are), but we also have the ability to be part of the solution and extend the reach of under-funded park and city maintenance programs. We know these roads like no one else does – every corner, every bump and every gravel patch. It’s in our best interest to keep our playground safe. After all, taking the “road less traveled” is a big part of what cycling is all about.

You can follow Melanie’s biking adventures on Strava.