Tea for 100? Save The Bay Founding Members Gather

It was a brilliantly sunny day with a strong breeze kicking up whitecaps on the Bay when around 100 founding Save The Bay members gathered at The Berkeley Yacht Club for Save The Bay’s annual Founding Members’ Tea. Save The Bay co-founder, Sylvia McLaughlin was on hand to greet the crowd of old friends.

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A Storied Spot
There couldn’t be a better location to celebrate our longtime members and their vision and accomplishments than the site of Save The Bay’s first success—stopping Berkeley from paving three miles out into the Bay off the shoreline where the Yacht Club sits now, adjacent to McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.

An Accomplished Honoree
Dr. Doris Sloan, geologist, local environmental icon and adjunct professor at UC Berkeley, was honored for her work over the years with Save The Bay. Sloan praised founding Save The Bay members for having the courage to take on the fight for San Pablo Bay back in the 1980s. Developers wanted to put 4,500 new homes on the wetlands at this far northern edge of the San Francisco Bay Estuary. The plan included a disastrous scheme to transport water and sewer over the Napa River from Vallejo. Sloan’s grad students did the research that eventually led to the defeat of the development. Sloan is also the author of the highly regarded natural history book, Geology of the San Francisco Bay Region (UC Press, 2006).

“I am very pleased to be honored at the Founders’ Tea,” said Sloan. “My association with Save the Bay goes back almost four decades, and I have always been proud of the many ways that Save the Bay has found to protect and restore our wonderful Bay.”

Inspiring Speakers
Additional speakers included Board Member Michael Katz, our Executive Director, David Lewis, and Regional Administrator for Environmental Protection Agency Region 9, Jared Blumenfeld.

Blumenfeld reminded the audience that the Bay is the reason for the lively atmosphere of creativity, energy, and innovation in the Bay Area, and thanked the founders for laying the groundwork for his agency’s efforts to protect the Bay.  “The Bay is a symbol of environmental progress over the past 40 years,” he said. Blumenfeld added that the current generation must continue to care for the environment, saying, “my goal is to make sure my children inherit a healthy bay, but government can’t do it alone.”

David told founders about our bold initiative to carry on their great work by continuing to engage new people who care about the Bay and are willing to take action to protect it. You too can follow in our founders’ footsteps and do something to protect our most precious resource. Sign up to volunteer, donate, or sign our petition to the San Francisco Water Board telling them to get tough on polluters and keep porpoises in the Bay.

Another way to be For The Bay

Last week, we invited a handful of dedicated volunteers to spend a couple of hours in our office, making calls to Save The Bay supporters like you and I.  These great folks had conversations with hundreds of locals, sharing updates about the For The Bay initiative, and signing folks up to volunteer in the future.

Volunteers make calls to fellow Bay supporters, talking about our For The Bay initiative.
Volunteers make calls to fellow Bay supporters, talking about our newest initiative, For The Bay.

Having spent my share of evenings and weekends volunteering for organizations I support over the years, I’m proud to say that this was one of the most inspirational (and fun) indoor volunteer opportunities I’ve ever seen.  And that positive attitude clearly came across in the voices of our callers, which is part of the reason why over 40 of the people we talked to said they wanted to get more involved and volunteer themselves.

If you’ve never taken the plunge and tried volunteer phone banking (and even if you have), you should know that it’s easy, low stress, and a great way to share your passion for the Bay and our region with other Save The Bay supporters.

Wanna dive in and become a For The Bay volunteer?  Click here to sign up for one of our upcoming shifts.  We’ll take care of all the details, and even provide awesome prizes and a delicious free dinner!

Hope to see you soon!

 

P.S. – Have you attended one of our Phone Banks?  Tell us (and other readers) what you thought by posting a comment below!

Guess Who’s Coming Back to the Bay!

I’m always stunned by what I find in my own backyard. Living near and commuting across the Bay, I keep stumbling on local treasures — an amazing view of the harbor from Noe Valley, or the Bay Bridge shimmering against the bright lights of rush hour traffic. I’m also discovering that I share a home with some surprising creatures- buffalo in Golden Gate Park, parrots in North Beach, even a river otter in the Sutro Baths.

But most surprising of all to me are the creatures that made their home here before I ever did, disappeared during World War II, stayed away for decades, and then one day, showed up under the Golden Gate Bridge.

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San Francisco Bay was once home to harbor porpoises, where they dwelt happily for hundreds of years. But in the early 1940s, they fled the Bay, which had become too dangerous and polluted to call home. Since then, a whole generation of Bay Area folks has grown up here, never knowing that porpoises once lived, played, and thrived right in their backyard. Now, more than 70 years later, they’re coming back. 

Why, after all this time, are they returning? Early signs point to better water quality and the overall health of the Bay as the most important factor. So far, nearly 300 porpoises have been spotted under the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, one of their favorite spots for fishing… and mating.

It’s exciting to think that these porpoises may be the first of many harbor porpoises that make their home in the San Francisco Bay.  But the truth is, this is a small and delicate start. There’s still much to be done to improve the water quality of the Bay. If many of us still don’t want to swim in and fish in it, why would a large mammal, sitting at the top of the food chain?

That’s why we’re asking the San Francisco Water Board to help us clean up the Bay, by standing up to the major corporations- like C&H Sugar and Tesoro Refining- who are polluting our backyard and endangering these porpoises. If you want to see even more porpoises coming home to the Bay, tell the San Francisco Regional Water Board to stand up to polluters right now. Better yet, spread the word. Help us reach our goal of 5,000 signatures by Earth Day (April 22nd).

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The Bay is such a big part of what makes living here special- why we’re some of the happiest people on the planet. But after suffering years of pollution, shoreline encroachment, and neglect, the Bay is not in the shape it used to be in. And that’s why we’ve launched For The Bay: to bring people like you and me together to reclaim the treasure of our region, the San Francisco Bay –our backyard, our playground, home to diverse creatures, like the harbor porpoises.

 

Deskside with David | Steelhead Return to our Backyard

Steelhead trout
Steelhead trout are returning to a Bay Area creek where citizens have spent years restoring habitat. Click the image to watch.

It’s amazing how resilient nature can be when we give it half a chance.  Even in the face of massive urbanization, pollution, and climate change, steelhead trout are returning to a Bay Area creek where citizens have spent years restoring habitat … and it’s right behind the backyards I played in as a child.

As you can see in this dramatic home video, 1.5 to 2-foot long steelhead were recently spotted in San Francisquito Creek exhibiting spawning behavior.  Though they often face inadequate downstream flows, trash carried by stormwater, and other obstacles, these fish have returned to try to reproduce.  It should be an enormous source of pride for local residents who’ve worked to make it a place fish want to swim.

Just a block from where this video was taken is the house my parents lived in when I was born.  In dry months, the creek was a place for kids to explore, and occasionally acquire a poison oak  rash.  In wet years, we would watch warily as the rushing runoff threatened to overflow the banks.  In grade school, I biked over this stretch of creek to buy Slurpees from the 7-Eleven.  Now Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg lives across the street.

San Francisquito Creek forms the border between the cities of Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, and divides Santa Clara County from San Mateo County, draining from the hills above Stanford through Portola Valley and Menlo Park, to empty into San Francisco Bay.  The creek’s upper reaches are blocked by Searsville Dam, then it passes under two freeways and Caltrain’s tracks before emptying into the Palo Alto Baylands.

That’s where Save The Bay volunteers have been working for over a decade to improve marsh habitat on the edge of the creek channel, restoring native plant vegetation to areas previously choked with weeds.  This restoration can improve water quality and provide organic material to the base of the food chain, which then provides nourishment for nursing fish and other wildlife.  The steelhead stars of this video passed through the areas we’ve restored on their way to spawn.

Farther upstream, another local organization, Acterra, has been working for years to restore upland vegetation and reduce erosion that would clog the creek with silt.  Now both Palo Alto and Menlo Park are working to reduce creek pollution at its source, through trash reduction measures including bans on plastic bags and Styrofoam. And there are ambitious plans to further improve creek habitat and natural flood protection by widening the creek channel and providing areas for storm overflow.

All around the Bay, local creek advocacy groups have adopted similar goals to restore and improve creeks, even redirecting them out of the culverts where they’ve been buried under streets and buildings, to restore their natural surface flow. As too many of us spend more of our lives indoors, looking at a screen, this expansion of “backyard nature” in urban areas provides multiple gifts to people and animals – none greater than the simple opportunity to easily access nature and reconnect with native wildlife.

There is so much more restoration to achieve, but these visible fish underscore how successful Bay restoration can be, and how important it is for residents to volunteer their labor to create more healthy communities.

We all need to help protect and restore the Bay for ourselves and the next generation. Together, we can make a difference. Join tens of thousands of Bay Area residents and declare that you are For The Bay, get a free sticker, and learn more at www.ForTheBay.org.

Bay Bridge Lights it Up

The Bay Lights
The Bay Lights reflect on San Francisco Bay. Photo: Warzau Wynn

Although I missed Tuesday night’s unveiling of the The Bay Lights on the Bay Bridge, it’s incredibly exciting to have such large-scale and public art visible along the Bay shoreline.  Over the next two years, an estimated 50 million people will gaze at the nightly twinkling of 25,000 LED lights, their reflection on the cool Bay waters, and how they cast an eerie glow on the fog rolling down from Twin Peaks. This kind of simple public interaction with the Bay and local landmarks is right up our alley with For The Bay.

As you’ve probably heard, For The Bay is a new initiative for us here at Save The Bay.  It’s all about providing new opportunities for Bay Area residents with ways to interact with, learn from, and explore the myriad of ways that a clean and healthy San Francisco Bay makes the region such a special place to live, work, and raise a family.

We know that 9 in 10 people in our communities think the Bay is critical to our quality of life, but only a small fraction of them ever take action to support the Bay and Bay issues.  And while events like the new Bay Bridge lights are a small first step, we’re working hard to identify as many other ways that we can engage Bay Area residents around our most magnificent resource – the Bay!

So we’ve got a question for you:  what are your favorite ways to interact with the Bay?