Public Weighs East End Parks

Courtesy Google Streetview    The public access pathway at Meyers Avenue and Eastshore Drive is all but invisible.

For the background behind the six public waterfront access parks, see Part One in last week’s edition.

Part Two 
In recent weeks the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department (ARPD) convened an official walking tour of the six parklets, and the Alamedans who came out were shown all the encroached upon public waterfront land along Fernside Boulevard and Eastshore Drive. In addition on Oct. 6 and 11, ARPD held two public meetings at City Hall for Alameda residents.

At the meetings, the public discussed the various options for using the $1 million set aside for the reclamation and improvement of some or all of the six parklets. ARPD Director Amy Wooldridge ran the meetings and used several thoughtful exercises to help the group decide on future improvements to some or all of the parks. 

The consultant’s report and the public meetings revealed a few significant issues. One was the disproportionately high cost of designing, permitting and installing improvements at any of the six waterfront sites that would both safely allow for a floating kayak or canoe launch. The high costs of installing a boat launch along Fernside is due to the Americans with Disabilities Act requirement that any boat launch be accessible at all tides. This would require less than an 8 percent grade from the street to the waterfront.

The high cost of installing a boat launch along Eastshore is due to the long mud flat that extends out from the shoreline. This would require a floating dock several hundred feet long to reach the deep- water channel. Either of these options would alone consume most of the $1 million available to reclaim and restore all six parks.

A second issue that quickly became evident are the differing priorities and concerns among two or more constituencies who attended the meetings: those who live along the waterfront in the East End, and those who can’t afford to live in those waterfront homes.  

Some who live along the water and attended the meeting expressed concerns for the safety and aesthetic of the parks and their community if the six waterfront parks were restored and improved, and public visitation increased. Several expressed concerns about the potential for an increase of crime in their neighborhood, and for the development of homeless encampments in the restored parks. Some argued for locking gates at the entrance to the parks that could be opened and locked by automatic timers, the neighbors themselves or police. A few said that the Alameda Police Department is already overwhelmed and that any calls to police could take hours to be answered.

The other vocal constituency was Alamedans who don’t own homes next to the water, and want to ensure continued access to these designated waterfront parks for all Alamedans. These included East End residents who live across the street from the waterfront, around the corner or down the block from these six parks. 

While the former group tried to paint a picture of these Alameda parks being magnets for criminals and the homeless, the latter tried to paint a picture of improved park amenities and waterfront access for Alameda families, their neighbors and guests who want to enjoy the benefits of Island life, even if they can’t afford to live along the water.  Both sides will get the chance to convince the City Council of the validity of their concerns when the issue of the six waterfront parklets is on the Council’s agenda on Wednesday, Nov. 7. All Alamedans can help to determine the future of these waterfront parks by writing the City Manager, the Mayor and their City Council members. Their email addresses are easily found on the City of Alameda’s website.