More than 14 years after returning to my native Bay Area, I’m still in awe of the Bay and its beauty. For the last year, I’ve had a sweeping Bay view from my office in downtown Oakland, and I’m blessed with a view of the Golden Gate from my home in the Berkeley Hills. But I recently got a new perspective on the Bay – from several thousand feet up, in a small plane.
We’ve all jetted in and out of the region’s major airports, glimpsing a few tiny landmarks through the window. But circling the Bay Area from just a few thousand feet up shows just how much it defines our region, touching every aspect of our lives. The Bay affects how we commute and how we play, where we live and work, the microclimates of our weather and the resilience of our economy.
From the Lighthawk 4-seater piloted by Bill Rush I also saw spread out beneath me the stunning impact of Save The Bay’s work over the last 50 years, and the enormous opportunities before us. The necklace of shoreline parks linked by hundreds of miles of Bay Trail, the largest urban wildlife refuge in the nation, huge expanses of open water and marshes at the mouths of creeks – these exist because our movement stopped the Bay from being filled to just the width of a narrow river.
The thriving tidal marshes around the Palo Alto airport where we took off were slated to be dug up and paved over for marina homes, a hotel and conference center when I grew up a mile away in the 1960s. Then courageous community leaders like Byron Sher and Florence LaRiviere stopped those plans and now Palo Alto Baylands is prime recreational open space, a magnet for birders, walkers and bikers.
Just north lie the restorable salt ponds directly threatened with development by Cargill, 1,400 acres in Redwood City where salt-making has ceased and the company proposed building 12,000 homes for 30,000 people. From the air you can see this is not a site for development – far from transit, adjacent to the industrial uses of the Port of Redwood City. You can also see that restoration here would close a habitat gap and be a boon for Bay endangered species.
Ducking in and out of fog as we flew north to Marin and Napa counties, we saw the huge expanse of hay fields and salt ponds that once were lush tidal marsh before they were diked for other uses over a century ago, and are now being returned to tidal marsh. In all, 35,000 acres have been acquired and protected for this purpose – with proper funding they can nearly double this habitat so important to the Bay’s health. Returning to the airport we circled the largest wetland restoration project on the west coast, which is turning the South Bay Salt Ponds back from brown and red, to green and blue.
A flight like this also underscores how most people live within a few miles of beautiful Bay shoreline parks and beaches – but how few use them. Crissy Field and Alcatraz get lots of visitors, but have you ever tried Coyote Point, McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, China Camp, Point Pinole, Hayward Regional Shoreline or Alviso Marina Park?
The sight of the Bay is re-energizing – from my office window or from a plane, but especially from a boat or the shoreline. I urge you to get out and enjoy the Bay this fall. Save The Bay can show you a new part of the shoreline when you sign up to help us restore Bay habitat – that way you can enjoy the Bay’s beauty and also give back to the resource that gives us so much.