If you have splashed around in the bay, ridden your bike in McLaughlin Eastshore State Park (MESP), followed a trail along the shoreline, sat on the sand at Albany Beach, or walked your dog off-leash on North Point Isabel, you can thank East Bay Regional Park District and California State Parks. Norman La Force didn’t want you to have any of that. If no one had pushed back, all of MESP would be more like the Berkeley Meadow – behind chain link fence. (As the Albany Bulb will likely be, if Norman is elected to the EBRPD board.)
GET THE HISTORY, FACTS, AND DOCUMENTATION BELOW:
The two extremes that MESP Park planners considered for Eastshore State Park (ESP) 20 years ago were Maximum Conservation and Maximum Recreation. (See discussion of alternatives beginning on page 221.) Max Conservation would have meant no kayaking, kiteboarding, windsurfing or any kind of boating; no access to Albany Beach and Bulb; few trails allowed along the shoreline; no off-leash recreational dog walking on North Point Isabel, and the footbridge from one side of that park to the other would have been removed.
Norman favored Maximum Conservation. The planners rejected it, saying it would allow the public to observe their park but not actually EXPERIENCE it. Norman responded furiously. That was a "value judgment" on the part of the park planners, he said. Observation IS an experience, he said. (See Eastshore Park Project General Plan, Responses to Comments on Final EIR, October 202, page 103.
Norman complained that the planners should at least have seriously considered the (slightly less draconian) "Conservation and Habitat Management Plan" put forward by Sierra Club, Citizens for East Shore Parks, Golden Gate Audubon Society, and others. (That, too, would have restricted water access and reduced longstanding off-leash recreation at Point Isabel/North Point Isabel from about 50 acres to 23 acres.
The General Plan that was eventually adopted was a big win for habitat and wildlife, by the way. People act like allowing people to walk their dogs on North Point Isabel, a toxic landfill that was heavily remediated and is still testing positive for lead, was a huge loss. It wasn’t. ESP set aside large areas entirely for habitat, including the Albany Mudflats Ecological Reserve, Emeryville Crescent, Hoffman Marsh, Berkeley Meadow, and one day, probably, the Albany Bulb. It just didn’t set aside EVERYTHING.
But not setting aside everything was not good enough for Norman. He HATED the accommodations that had been made for park users. He said to California State Parks that the final plan “gives something to everyone but pleases no one, and cannot be justified by policies or the law.” (That is code for, “I may sue the park district again.”)
In his 14-page complaint to California State Parks in late August 2002, as the General Plan was being finalized, he said there was too much public access, too much parking, too many facilities. (Ever wished there were a bathroom or food concession nearby? Those are facilities.) He said bitterly that the planning process had failed the participants.
You can download the 14-page letter quoted above here. It’s “8.2002 NLF comments on DEIR, ESP.” I obtained it through the Public Records Act.
Norman worked hard on buying the parcels of old land and landfill that were knit together to create MESP. He also worked hard to keep you from using it.
If Norman had been on the park district board of directors back in 2002, McLaughlin Eastshore State Park would be a very different park today. The role of the board is to balance preservation, conservation, and recreation. That’s not Norman’s strong suit.
“But what about the Tom Bates sports fields?” Yeah, lots of horse-trading went into those. There are years of letters from Norman to EBRPD and California State Parks telling them that sports fields in the state park aren’t legal, would bring crowds, create parking issues and trash, would bring noise and bright lights at night that would harm wildlife, are single-use facilities, reduce habitat, etc. Those things are all still true. Environmentally, sports fields aren’t a good thing.(They are way worse than someone walking their dog off-leash.) Norman was against them before he was for them.
Let the buyer beware.