Carrying on Sylvia’s legacy


Sylvia with Monica
Monica met Sylvia McLaughlin during Save The Bay’s 50th anniversary.

When someone asks me, “Who are your heroes?” the people who come to mind are often strangers who live in other places or other times. Sylvia McLaughlin is the one whose picture I see every workday, reminding me that heroes are simply people who see what needs to be done and do it.

I started working at Save The Bay in 2011, as the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary year. It was an incredible way to connect with the history of this environmental movement. The story of these three women from Berkeley who stood up for a better San Francisco Bay is inspiring to all of us. Can you imagine if they hadn’t succeeded? Would our beloved San Francisco Bay be merely a polluted shipping channel? Before learning the history, it was easy to take the Bay for granted, a sparkling gem that defines the Bay Area. I am both inspired and humbled by the work that Save The Bay’s founders started in Sylvia’s home in the Berkeley hills all those years ago.

I was thrilled the first time I heard Sylvia speak in person, at our 50th anniversary gala event.  She quoted her friend and co-founder Kay Kerr: “The San Francisco Bay is never saved, it is always in the process of being saved.” She encouraged each of us to keep working for a better San Francisco Bay. Her words resonated throughout the room, a reminder not just to look back at the fights already won, but to embrace the work of constantly improving our Bay.

When Sylvia McLaughlin passed away last month at the age of 99, she left a long list of accomplishments and an admirable legacy.  As we honor her life, I’m filled with awe and gratitude of the impact she had on our region. The San Francisco Bay is no longer seen as a giant sewer or unused real estate. This thriving estuary is now ringed with parks and open space to give the public access to its shoreline, including McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, named in Sylvia’s honor. Each time we look out over San Francisco Bay, we can thank Sylvia.

A legacy of determination

I am so thankful to Sylvia for her persistence and determination. She and her friends faced what must have seemed like impossible challenges, and changed the course of history. Sylvia’s lifelong commitment to working for a better Bay is a legacy all of its own.

The ways that we interact with the Bay have changed in the last 50 years, and the challenges we face are new as well. In the face of climate change and the Bay Area’s growing population, the task at hand can feel as impossible as what our founders faced half a century ago.  But just as Sylvia saved the Bay for us, I am confident that we can save the Bay for future generations.

We take inspiration from Sylvia’s vision for the San Francisco Bay, rooted in her deep love for this place we all come home. We will remember her courage when we face our own impossible odds. We’ll channel her tenacity when confronted by powerful interests. And we will share her faith that ordinary people achieve great things when they come together and raise their voices as one.

Staff Planting Day 2015!

oro loma group
At 9am Tuesday morning, Save The Bay’s staff gathered at the entrance of the Oro Loma Sanitary District, ready to get to work outside. It was a day past Fellows and I have anticipated as a fun disruption of our usual indoor routines, and anyone would agree that if Bay Savers aren’t channeling their focus, good humor and determination into computers at the office, they’re going to channel those qualities onto the field, especially with trowels.

oro loma flags

Before diving in, the Habitat Restoration team guided us through the Oro Loma Horizontal Levee Project and its context of sea level rise and restoration efforts in San Francisco Bay. After our nursery manager Jessie’s brief tour of the nursery beds where she’s growing the 70,000 seedlings to be planted on the site, Habitat Restoration Director Donna provided a brief overview of the experimental levee and its innovative approach to sustainable bayshore infrastructure and improving water quality. In collaboration with UC Berkeley (include list of other partners here), Oro Loma Sanitary District will provide research that would demonstrate how this ecotone project would effectively interact with treated wastewater and continue re-establishing the Bay’s habitat in the future.

With that in mind, our planting crew joined the rest of the Habitat Restoration team, put on our gloves, and patted in at least seven different species on deck (while their names escape me now, they were gratefully color-coded in white, red, pink, light blue, dark blue, purple, light green, and dark green). Between digging, I couldn’t help but take in the unique space–a wastewater management facility and active construction site around us–and was amazed at what an unconventional venue like this this would provide for a manmade basin. How will this site look in a few years once the levee is completely planted and thriving? I’m usually a very patient person, but I am pretty excited to see Oro Loma’s transformative results.

oro loma planting

After four hours out in the field, the Save The Bay staff put in 2,260 plants–a full cell of the levee! How did a few of us cool off afterward? By going over to Alameda Memorial State Beach and taking a celebratory dip the Bay! 

Are you interested in contributing to a unique restoration project along the Bay shoreline? Save The Bay will be hosting one more volunteer planting workday at Oro Loma, on December 12. Volunteer with us!

Welcome, Chief Development Officer Meghan Macaluso

Meghan Macaluso
Meghan Macaluso is Save The Bay’s chief development officer

We’re proud to welcome Meghan Macaluso as Save The Bay’s new chief development officer. As CDO, she is responsible for meeting Save The Bay’s ambitious fundraising goals.

Meghan is a political and charitable fundraiser who has worked for nearly fifteen years at leading Bay Area non-profits, political campaigns, and private sector firms. She comes to Save The Bay with significant experience raising money for political and advocacy organizations, most recently in the field of women’s reproductive health and rights.  She has served in senior leadership positions at NARAL Pro-Choice America, Population Action International, and Planned Parenthood Northern California.

“I am inspired by the story of our founders, three women who were politically savvy and effective in an era when women didn’t have a seat at the table,” Meghan says. “Now, I hope to marshal the financial resources Save The Bay needs to carry our mission forward for the next 50 years.”

Native to landlocked Denver, Meghan chose to relocate to the Bay Area for the quality life and natural setting. “It was love at first sight – I was struck by the exquisite beauty of the Bay waters. Now I can work to preserve the Bay’s natural beauty for my son and the many generations to come.”

In her free time, Meghan serves as a volunteer fundraising trainer for Emerge California, a statewide organization that trains Democratic women to run for elected office, and provides fundraising consulting services for political candidates.  A graduate of Boston College with a BA in History, Meghan lives in Oakland with her family.

Staff Summer Outing

Our staff enjoying a day out of the office at MLK shoreline.
Our staff enjoying a day out of the office at MLK shoreline.

Every year, our Save The Bay team spends a summer day out of the office engaging in recreational activities around the Bay. The Summer Staff Outing is a day for staff to enjoy each other’s company and expand our understanding and appreciation of the Bay and the areas around us. These annual outings are also a great way for us to enjoy the beautiful Bay that we work to restore and protect every day.

Last year, our staff rented bikes and spent the day cycling around Angel Island. This year, we spent the day canoeing around San Leandro Bay, followed by a picnic at Crab Cove in Alameda.

Our day began at Tide Water Boating Station, along the Oakland Estuary at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline. We had the privilege of going on one of the East Bay Regional Park’s recreation programs, a guided canoe trip that took us out on the Bay and gave us a unique perspective on our MLK nursery and many of our restoration sites.

After receiving a quick safety briefing from our instructors, we grabbed paddles and PFDs and began launching our canoes into the water. As I got into my boat, I spotted a familiar name written across the side of it: Esther Gulick, one of our organization’s founders.

It turns out that many of the canoes that we used that day were boats that had been donated to EBRP from Save The Bay. Our pilot education program Canoes in Sloughs, used to take kids canoeing out on the Bay to learn more about the estuary and the native species that depend on it. While we now teach by doing hands-on restoration programs with local schools, the tradition of Canoes in Sloughs lives on the through the EBRP recreational programs

Raft Up

While we were out on the water, we saw many of the native creatures that we work to save, including seals, pelicans, egrets, and cormorants. During our paddle, we got the chance to learn more about the natural history of the area, hearing stories from one of the EBRP naturalists about the formation of Arrowhead Marsh and it’s population of endangered Ridgway Rails, as we explored the perimeter of the site from the water.

After a few hours of paddling, we returned to the shore and got ready to head to Crown Memorial State Beach for lunch. When we arrived at the picnic site, we were greeted by a beautiful spread of fruit, salad and more. After eating we took to the beach, where we tossed around the Frisbee, watched the nearby kite surfers and played group games. We ended our day with a quick talk from Bay writer and natural history educator Joel Pomerantz.

After a fun-filled day of no work and all play, I returned to the office the next day feeling restored and inspired. It was great to be able to enjoy the Bay with my fellow Bay Savers, all of whom are so dedicated to protecting and restoring our most valuable regional treasure, the San Francisco Bay.



Three Questions for New Political Director Paul Kumar

San Francisco Bay Healthy Bay Political Director Paul Kumar
Our new Political Director Paul Kumar is working to engage local residents in establishing a healthy Bay. Photo by Rick Lewis

Last month, we welcomed Paul Kumar as Save The Bay’s new Political Director. We asked Paul a few questions about his vision for advocating for a thriving San Francisco Bay.

Why do you love San Francisco Bay?

I guess you could say I’ve had a lifelong love affair with bay regions and their ecology. I grew up in Harrisburg, PA on the Susquehanna River, which is the largest tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. In my teens I spent some very memorable summer weeks on the Eastern Shore of the bay itself, where I learned to appreciate the extraordinary richness and diversity of its marshes and wetlands,  and the complex web of aquatic and avian life they support. As an adult, before moving to the West Coast, I spent a decade living in New Haven, CT, on the shores of Long Island Sound, which I got to know and appreciate with greater scientific understanding that I gained from my friends working in water quality, wetlands restoration, and wilderness education programs. Fifteen years ago, when I had the opportunity to relocate to the San Francisco Bay area, it felt like the culmination of all my past history. The Bay is epically beautiful and fecund – people from all corners of globe come here to marvel at it, and its rich ecology is the wellspring of the world-changing social and economic development that have grown up around it, including the wisdom that led Save the Bay’s founders to launch the advocacy efforts and build the structure of governance capable of protecting and enhancing the Bay’s health for posterity.

What’s your vision for a healthy Bay?

San Francisco Bay is not a wilderness, but a critically important estuary located in the midst of a densely populated area that is projected to experience nearly 30% population growth by 2040. That makes it critical for us to have a vision for a healthy Bay that is not just driven by the science of preservation and restoration of wetlands and wildlife habitat, but that encompasses a vision of human interaction with the Bay, focused on ensuring that future economic development efforts and land-use plans are genuinely sustainable, avoiding encroachment on and discharge into waterways and transitional zones, and abating those problems where they already exist. In short, we need to establish a mutually beneficial relationship between the natural environment and the built environment, based on ecological consciousness.

Why is political advocacy important to protecting our Bay?

In an economy where growth and profit are the driving maxims, there will always be incentives to disregard the exploitation of the natural environment and externalize costs at its expense. While educating individuals and institutions on ecological values and practices is critically important to address these threats, that alone is insufficient. Protecting and enhancing our environment requires energized popular engagement and a deepening of democracy that expands people’s power over decisions that have significant impacts on our communities and the ecological systems that sustain them, which in our region means San Francisco Bay first and foremost. Political advocacy is our means to these ends, and after an election with record-low turnout that has placed Congress in the control of climate change deniers, it is impossible to overstate the importance of strong advocacy if we are to protect the environmental progress we have made and win additional advances rather than watch our achievements be rolled back.