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The Albany Waterfront

The Albany waterfront is complicated from history to geography to politics.

History:  The Bulb and Plateau were the City of Albany's former dump and apparently are composed mostly of yard clippings and construction debris. Albany was forced to close the dump during the wave of movement, led by three women who founded Save the Bay, to stop filling San Francisco Bay (which was once the grand plan...cities had a vision of creating so much new "land" that the bay itself would have been reduced to a relatively narrow waterway). Albany Beach started forming against the edge of the landfill around the early 1960s, according to the lore. In 2011, East Bay Regional Park District proposed its Albany Beach Restoration and Public Access Project to complete the Bay Trail between Buchanan Street and Gilman Street, add bathrooms and parking, create a fenced habitat area, and improve beach access (including sand mats for wheelchairs).

Geography:  Albany Beach and the Plateau are part of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, managed by East Bay Regional Park District. The paved shoreline trail that goes west from the beach out to the Bulb is also part of MESP. The higher dirt trail parallel to the paved trail is Albany's right-of-way out to the Albany Bulb, which the city still owns. When MESP was created, the plan was for the Bulb to eventually become part of the state park, after some additional park planning and remediation (such as removing dangerous rebar).

Politics:  The Albany waterfront was enjoyed for decades by an adventurous type of park user who relished the way Nature was reclaiming the area and enjoyed its remoteness, wildness, and sometimes weirdness. Artists have created sculptures on the Bulb, paintings, and recently (2020) a series of benches out of found materials. Bulbfest, created by Love the Bulb, has held music, art, and dance festivals. At different times there have been up to 80 people living out on the Bulb but around 1998 they moved elsewhere. 

When MESP was being created, Citizens for Eastshore Park (a coalition of environmental groups) envisioned the area being used very differently, including limited access to the Albany Bulb and no off-leash dogs on Albany Beach. In 2011, Norman La Force of Sierra Club and SPRAWLDEF sued EBRPD to kick people with dogs and kiteboarders off the beach. The judge threw out the kiteboarder complaint (that kiteloarders might harm eel grass under the water). The complaint about dogs was more technical -- had EBRPD's environment impact report been adequate? -- and La Force lost that suit. The legal actions delayed completion of the Bay Trail by about two years.

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