On a recent foggy morning, Save The Bay policy and restoration staff got to see first-hand the exciting progress taking place at Bair Island (map), one of the most anticipated marsh restoration projects in San Francisco Bay.
Saved by Redwood City residents in the 1980’s from a massive development proposal by Mobil Oil, 3,000-acre Bair Island is home to over 150 species of birds and wildlife, including great blue herons, snowy egrets, the endangered California clapper rail, Salt marsh harvest mouse, and several pods of adorable, yet skittish harbor seals who nurse their pups on the Island.
Bair is actually split up into 3 separate islands. The smallest is Inner Bair, which comes right up against Highway 101. Cross over Smith Slough and you’re at Middle Bair, which is more than twice as big. Finally, on the other side of the windy Corkscrew Slough is Outer Bair, which extends out into the open Bay.
Major restoration work, which has been going on for several years, is nearing completion. Construction crews have already breached the old levees of Outer Bair, allowing the Bay tides to come back in. This winter, after the installation of two “flow constrictors” in the two major sloughs, the crews breached Middle Bair too. (The flow constrictors are intended to reduce the speed of the water, protecting the nearby Port of Redwood City and Pete’s Harbor marina.) Now workers are nearly finished raising the soil height of Inner Bair (it had subsided over the years), so that it too can be breached and restored back to healthy tidal marsh.
The final restoration of Inner Bair won’t likely happen until the late summer or early fall, but limited public access is expected much sooner – as early as this spring – so more people can get a peek at the exciting work underway. A new pedestrian bridge is being installed, which will allow visitors to cross over from Uccelli Boulevard in Redwood City and walk around a triangular section of Inner Bair.
Full public access to Inner Bair Island, along with interpretive signs and overlooks, is expected to arrive by the end of the year, opening up a 3-mile loop trail for the estimated 250,000 annual visitors that have been anxiously awaiting the completion of the restoration work. We’ll keep you updated on the progress!
Want to learn more about Bair Island? Check out our past blog on Mobil Oil’s plans in the 1980’s to develop the area with thousands of houses, and the courageous Redwood City residents who fought back and saved Bair Island for future generations.
UPDATE – May 2013:
Good news! The Don Edwards SF Bay National Wildlife Refuge has now opened a small portion of Bair Island to the public. To learn more about the areas currently open for access, see our latest blog, “Explore the Newly-Opened Trails at Bair Island.”