Taking Ownership of Our Public Shorelines

This past fall, Woodside-Atherton Garden Club became the first community organization to adopt a section of Bay shoreline under Save The Bay’s new Adopt-a-Shoreline Leadership Program. What this means is that the Garden Club pledges to restore a section of the shoreline near our nursery at Palo Alto Baylands back to functioning transition zone habitat. The club will also use the site as a demonstration shoreline to connect the public to the processes of native plant propagation and habitat restoration.


At Save The Bay we are really excited about this new program for its potential to deepen our connections in communities around the Bay and create new opportunities for local civic organizations to get involved in Bay conservation.

But there’s an even bigger idea behind all of this. The Bay is a public resource and it’s the responsibility of everyone who lives here to do his or her part to make sure it thrives.

This idea of taking “ownership” of our public lands is hardly new. Communal management of land was the norm in many places around the world for centuries—though the stewardship ethic dramatically decreased with the rise of private property ownership.

When Save The Bay was founded, fewer than 6 miles of the San Francisco Bay Shoreline was publically accessible. The vast majority of the shoreline was privately owned and highly modified to make way for urbanization, farming, and salt ponds. Over 90% of the the Bay’s wetland habitat was lost and its shoreline became a dumping ground for waste and sewage.

Over the past 50 years, through the efforts of Save The Bay and countless other organizations and concerned citizens, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in our conservation and stewardship values of the Bay. Hundreds of miles of shoreline are now publically accessible. Tens of thousands of acres of critical wetland habitat have been restored, and although we have a long way to go to fully restore the remaining acres needed to provide habitat for the wildlife of the region, there is good reason to be optimistic. We are at a turning point in history regarding how we value our natural resources. Now is the perfect time to encourage our communities to take further steps to take back ownership of these precious public, natural resources.

The Woodside-Atherton Garden Club is an ideal group for pioneering this new partnership. As one of over 200 garden clubs affiliated with the Garden Club of America, the club is committed to connecting people to gardening and improvement of public spaces through horticulture, as well as conservation of native flora.

Save The Bay’s community-based habitat restoration program works with more than 6,000 volunteers every year to restore the tidal marsh-upland transition zone, important habitat for two endangered species, the California clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse. We propagate locally collected, native plants at two facilities: the MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline in Oakland, in partnership with the East Bay Regional Park District; and at the Palo Alto Baylands, through the City of Palo Alto. We welcome volunteers along the shoreline at all of our sites, as well as in our two nurseries.

To find out more about the Adopt-a-Shoreline Leadership Program, please connect Doug Serrill by email at doug@savesfbay.org, or by phone at (510) 463-6828. For other exciting volunteer opportunities to help restore this critical resource, please visit our website. I hope to see you at our nurseries and along the shoreline!