Celebrate Sonoma’s shoreline this Bay Day

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.

Photo by Michael Woolsey
Photo by Michael Woolsey

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.

Photo by Lance Kuehne
Photo by Lance Kuehne

This blog was written by Nicole Na, Sonoma Land Trust Communications Coordinator. 

Walking the Bay 2

Corinne C. DeBra of Palo Alto has walked around the Bay twice, taking pictures along the way. Her exhibit “Walking the Bay” opens at Keeble & Shuchat Photography in Palo Alto opens Sept. 15 to Oct. 12. Read more on her blog.

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“What possessed you to take a 1,000-mile walk around San Francisco Bay?” someone once asked me.

It’s difficult to explain why I took this long walk, and am now on a more leisurely second circumnavigation around the Bay, to people who haven’t enjoyed a good hike or a beautiful sunset along the Bay Shore.

To those who watch the evening news and may be hesitant about going outdoors in general, I wish you the courage to explore and experience something truly wonderful in your own backyard. This same person who asked about my 1,000-mile walk also asked if I’d seen any bears. The bears that once lived in the Bay Area may be long gone, but fears of the unknown often linger and lead to a less adventurous life.

Contrary to popular belief, it was in fact possible and enjoyable to take this 1,000-mile journey.

Through the use of the Bay Trail and a few stretches of the Ridge Trail and the new Water Trail I was able to walk the Bay and capture this wonderful journey through nature.

Fortunately, many birds and smaller animals still manage to survive, often in the margins around urban areas near the Bay Trail, where there are many wonderful places to observe wildlife. The remaining baylands and marshes provide a narrow strip of refuge between land and sea—thanks to the preservation efforts of many individuals, agencies and organizations, such as Save The Bay.

Bay Area walkers and bicyclists owe a debt of gratitude to all those who continue to balance environmental protection with recreational access for the millions of individuals who live in the nine counties that touch San Francisco Bay. The Bay Trail offers some of the best views and vantage points for those interested not just in nature, but also history, culture, art and exercise. The Bay Trail takes you across the Golden Gate Bridge and other bridges; and through over 47 diverse areas that range from big and bustling cities to quiet and serene parks and open spaces.

I’m honored to be involved in two events for the first Bay Day on Saturday, Oct. 1.:

  • Free Bay Day Bay Trail walk in the Palo Alto Baylands that will depart at 9:30 a.m. at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center located at 2775 Embarcadero Way in Palo Alto (Distance: 1.6 miles/2.57 km)
  • Free Bay Day drop-in event from Noon to 4 p.m. at Keeble & Shuchat Photography (upstairs gallery) in conjunction with “Walking the Bay 2” photo exhibit.

I’ve met interesting people and continue to discover many new places on my Bay Trail walks. San Francisco Bay has something for everyone. I’ve tried to condense thousands of small stories from over 100,000 photos into a small collection of 47 images as part of my “Walking the Bay 2” show at Keeble & Shuchat Photography in Palo Alto that will be held from Sept. 15 to Oct. 12. I hope that my 1,000 mile walk and photos will inspire others to check out the Bay Trail and come to appreciate the Bay as much as I do.

For information about my walks, check out www.walking-the-bay.com. And for more on the Bay Trail, including an interactive online map, go to www.baytrail.org.

Connect with Mother Nature, offline

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Sometimes, a new perspective of the world around us is all it takes to “disconnect to reconnect” with the self. Photo By: Vivian Reed

It seems like it was only yesterday when my Dad purchased our first family desktop computer in 1996. During that time school computer labs were furnished with clunky, colorful Macintosh desktop computers, CDs and VHS tapes predated MP3s and Netflix, and the Y2K hysteria dominated tech headlines.

My friends and I, most of whom were born in the early 1990s and grew up in Silicon Valley, often talk about the role of technology and its lightning-fast changes throughout our lifetimes. The consensus? A shared belief that the definition of childhood has evolved as today’s children are more in touch with technology, literally.

Growing up in a town where at least one member of each family worked in tech, meant every kid on the block had the latest and greatest gadget in his or her possession (and it still is the case today). Although I was often envious of my classmates who sported their shiny, razor-thin camera flip phones, I always felt happiest and more relaxed outdoors.

Swinging on my backyard swing set, puddle jumping with friends in a rain storm, playing organized sports at the local park, hiking around the Bay Area with my family, and backpacking with friends in the Sierra Nevada are my fondest childhood memories. And it is those memories of a time spent outdoors, that fueled my decision to begin my career as an environmental advocate at Save The Bay.

We are lucky to live in a region with incredible access to the outdoors, but only if we take the time to get away from our screens. Recently, I have become concerned that we’ll lose a connection that’s stronger than your wifi signal — our connection with the natural environment.

The truth is, technology is so inextricably woven into our lifestyle that it’s not just a millennial issue. Look around — anyone old enough to operate a smartphone most likely owns one (or at least has access to one). This constant connection affords an ability to know what is happening in real time, but it also takes away from using that “real time” to inspire the next generation of Bay Savers.

Today disconnecting from the world has transcended into a spiritual practice that cleanses the mind, body, and soul. This trend of “disconnecting to reconnect” opens a new area of study for social science researchers, provides fodder for a “reality” television show, and even inspires business entrepreneurs to found a tech-free, digital detox camp for adults. But here’s my question: Can the practice of seeking solace outdoors in this highly-connected era help solve the environmental problems we face today?

I’m not so naive to suggest that one glance of San Francisco Bay from the region’s tallest peaks, one day of biking along the Bay Trail, or one night of camping at Angel Island State Park will immediately inspire you to tackle today’s environmental challenges head on. But, I do believe that prioritizing and making a continuous effort to play outdoors can redefine what is really important to us as individuals. And if we value outdoor recreation, then the next logical step would be to commit to preserving and protecting this open space.

If the old adage “Today’s children are tomorrow’s future” rings true, then it’s our collective responsibility as adults to make play a priority for our children by signing off of technology and plugging into the world around us. It is time we all see and experience the world  through our own eyes — not live vicariously through someone else’s photograph of a beautiful landscape posted online.

This weekend, I challenge you to go outside and enjoy a day by the Bay free of technology. Then store those memories in your mental computer and and share them with your loved ones in person. I bet you won’t even miss your screen.

News of the Bay: March 28, 2014

Check out this edition of News of the Bay for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

3/20/2014
San Jose Mercury News
Photos of 30-day trek on San Francisco Bay Trail capture its many wonders
Kurt Schwabe had just been laid off from a dead-end job when he decided to start walking.
Not just any kind of walking — purposeful walking.
“What I really wanted to do was expand the tools that I feel I’m best at, writing and photography, and I love to be outdoors. I wanted to help make a difference about something,” he says.
And that’s how he found himself spending the entire month of June walking the 330 miles of the San Francisco Bay Trail, a still-uncompleted project that began in 1997 and that runs through 47 cities in all nine Bay Area counties.
Read more>>

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3/20/2014
San Francisco Magazine
History Written in Water
San Francisco Bay is clearer than it has been since the gold rush. Its waters are less muddy, and much of the befouling sediment that formerly covered the bay floor has washed away into the Pacific.
Good news, right? Wrong. Actually, the fact that the bay’s water is more transparent than it has been in 150 years is causing some serious problems, a development that is both unexpected and deeply ironic. The silt that until recently muddied the bay was created by what has always, and rightly, been considered California’s first and worst environmental disaster: hydraulic mining. By 1853, panning for gold was no longer profitable, so miners began using water cannons to blast away riverbanks and entire mountains. The amount of sand and dirt blown loose was inconceivable: One geologist estimated it at one and a half billion cubic yards, or eight times more than the material removed to build the 48-mile-long Panama Canal. So vast was the quantity of sediment that the mighty Sacramento River’s bed was raised 13 feet at the capital.|
Read more>>

3/24/2014
New York Times
Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes
A dangerous new form of a powerful stimulant is hitting markets nationwide, for sale by the vial, the gallon and even the barrel.
The drug is nicotine, in its potent, liquid form — extracted from tobacco and tinctured with a cocktail of flavorings, colorings and assorted chemicals to feed the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry.
These “e-liquids,” the key ingredients in e-cigarettes, are powerful neurotoxins. Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.
Read more>>

3/25/2014
San Jose Mercury News
South Bay Passenger Rail Corridor Proposed for Moving Crude Oil
The tracks that carry Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains through about a dozen heavily populated East Bay and South Bay communities could become a rail superhighway for potentially explosive crude oil transports to Central California under a plan by the Phillips 66 oil company, Berkeley officials warn.
A project at Phillips 66’s Santa Maria refinery would enable it to receive crude oil from North American sources that are served by rail, according to a draft environmental report under review by San Luis Obispo County.
Read more>>

3/27/2014
CBS Local
California Drought Creating Toxic Clams in San Francisco Bay
California’s ongoing drought is affecting much more than just drinking water supplies as scientists are looking into how declining rainfall may be increasing the toxicity of the San Francisco Bay.
With less water flowing into the bay during the drought, there is an increase in naturally occurring toxins—materials which are then ingested by all kinds of creatures, including the overbite clams, which are non-native to the ecosystem, and then move up the food chain.
Read more>>

Weekly Round-Up November 8, 2013

Check out this week’s Weekly Roundup for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

Napa Valley Register 11/3/13
County Pushes Fish and Wildlife to Help Improve Airport Safety
Napa County is lobbying the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to improve a small area next to the Napa County Airport to improve safety for aircraft and also allow another segment of the Bay Trail to be built.
Public Works Director Steve Lederer sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton Bonham last month urging the work — part of a 2005 permit from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) — to be completed as soon as possible.
Read more>>

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Contra Costa Times 11/1/13
Martinez Considers Banning Plastic Bags, Foam Take-out Containers
Martinez may join the growing list of California cities that ban plastic shopping bags and polystyrene foam food and drink containers.
Modeled in part on the ordinance Pittsburg adopted last month, city staffers have proposed prohibiting distribution of single-use plastic bags by commercial and retail businesses including grocery, liquor, clothing, convenience and book stores
Read more>>

San Francisco Chronicle 11/5/13
Bay Trail Vision at Work at Carquinez Shoreline
A trail project along Carquinez Strait will provide a missing link for the Bay Trail, and with it, a restored route with sensational views for people who walk, hike, bike or run.
The route runs along along an abandoned roadway set into the cliffs west of Martinez that had been closed due to erosion, rockslides and holes, cracks and crevices in the pavement.
Construction crews placed fencing at both ends of a 1.7-mile project along Carquinez Scenic Drive. When work is complete, the route will provide a trail link from Carquinez to Crockett. The trail segment will be closed for about two years for public safety, according to the East Bay Regional Park District.
Read more>>

San Francisco Chronicle 11/8/13
Annual Migration Slow to Arrive in Central Valley
In the Bay Area, wetlands provide habitat for roughly 1.6 million shorebirds in winter. Of dozens of marshes and wetlands, the best for sightings are often Napa-Sonoma Marsh at high and outgoing tides by kayak, and at low tide at Hayward Regional Shoreline, Bothin Marsh in Sausalito, Don Edward San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Newark and the Palo Alto Baylands Preserve.
Read more>>

KQED Science 11/6/13
Baylands Nature Preserve a Winter Birders Wonderland
Described by bird watchers as the go-to place for the “best birding on the bay,” the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve is a feather-filled oasis during winter. This is the time that waterfowl migrate through the Pacific Flyway and settle along the California coast for the season.
Read more>>

San Francisco Chronicle 11/8/13
Google Barge Mystery Unfurled
The barge portion of the Google barge mystery is only half the story – when completed, the full package is envisioned to be an “unprecedented artistic structure,” sporting a dozen or so gigantic sails, to be moored for a month at a time at sites around the bay.
Documents submitted to the Port of San Francisco show that the barge’s creators have big plans for the bulky box now docked at Treasure Island.
Read more>>

Audublog 10/31/13
Keeping Watch Over Brown Pelicans
The Brown Pelican is California’s iconic coastal bird and one of the great success stories of the Endangered Species Act. While pelicans have dramatically recovered in the last 30 years, they have since suffered unprecedented breeding failures and starvation events in California and Oregon, likely due to poor availability of prey. Audubon California is leading a set of concerned groups urging the Fish and Wildlife Service to complete key tasks required under the Endangered Species Act in order to secure the future of these beloved birds.
Read more>>