Bayshore Breathing Space for All
Jessica Davenport's opinion article in the San Francisco Estuary News highlights the importance of equitable access to nature and community engagement in conservation in the Bay Area.
I live just a couple miles from Berkeley Aquatic Park, but it took a shelter-in-place order to get me to go back there after a 20-year hiatus. I had visited the park a couple years after I moved to the Bay Area and found it deserted and a bit gloomy. This time, it was vibrant and full of life, from the bright yellow gumplants blooming along the shoreline to the great blue heron feeding in the shallows and shiny-black cormorants diving deep underwater, then returning to the surface to dry their wings in the sun.
And the people! There were kids playing on the playground, cyclists zipping along the Bay Trail, and frisbee golfers politely asking me to move out of the way so they could continue with their game. Along the shore were theater and dance spaces, a bike and boat repair and rental shop, and a place where cyclists with disabilities could get access to adaptive equipment. The lagoon was created by humans, a depression scooped out of the land when the Bayshore Highway was constructed in the 1930s, but that didn’t stop it from hosting a range of shorebirds and waterfowl and people of all ages and backgrounds.
The COVID crisis has forced many of us to rethink what it means to have access to parks and trails close to home. Just as the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed led many people to wake up to the injustices of our policing and criminal justice systems, the orders to shelter in place forced a deeper reckoning in the conservation community with the inequities of access to nature and recreational spots in the Bay Area.