San Pablo Bay borders just a few square miles of Sonoma County, but its significance to locals is far greater than the area it covers.
It is part of our identity — after all, don’t we in Sonoma County refer to ourselves as the North Bay?
We rely on the Bay for recreation and the health of our economy. Its tidal wetlands sequester carbon, provide habitat for endangered and threatened species, filter bay waters, and protect us from sea level rise. The Bay is an extension of our open space — and as such, we at Sonoma Land Trust aim to protect it for future generations.
That is the motivation behind our Sears Point Restoration Project. After purchasing the property in 2005, Sonoma Land Trust began planning and fundraising to bring the tides back to 1,000 acres of former wetland at Sears Point, which neighbors the Sonoma Raceway and overlooks the Bay.
The project took 10 years, $17.9 million and the efforts of our amazing partners. The land was diked to create farmland in the mid-1800s and remained dry until Oct. 25, 2015, when we joined our partners and supporters to look on as we breached the levee and the waters of San Pablo Bay came rushing into to fill the tidal basin.
We immediately saw the effects of the returning tides. Within a few days, shorebirds and waterfowl had already flocked to the restoration site. After the levee breach, the site was closed to the public for a few months while construction — which included a new 2.5-mile section of Bay Trail — was completed and finishing touches were put in place.
The Bay Trail was opened to the public on May 15, 2016, and the land was transferred to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, becoming part of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The site will take 20 to 30 years to shift from open water to a fully vegetated marsh — but, thanks to that new section of Bay Trail, it is a process that Bay Area residents can now bear witness to as they walk, hike or cycle for fun or to work.
Sonoma Land Trust formed a docent program for those who love and want to learn more about the Bay. Every Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., docents are stationed at the site with birding scopes, ready to impart their wisdom, dispense knowledge, or simply walk with visitors along the trail.
We are also celebrating Bay Day on Saturday, Oct. 1 at Sears Point! Local expert Roger Leventhal will give us a look into the future of the Bay, and teach us about climate change adaptation strategies as climate change continues to raise sea levels.
Afterwards, we will join the docents for a walk along the marsh. Whether you show up early for the talk or drop in for the marsh hike, it is a great way to celebrate Bay Day — and show how much you love the Bay.
This blog was written by Nicole Na, Sonoma Land Trust Communications Coordinator.