A Nice Stretch Along the Bay Trail

July 12, 2008 at 1:07 pm Leave a comment

One of my favorite features of the Bay Area is the Bay Trail


In an age of perpetually developed land and privatization, I take heart in the work being done to convert formerly abused or otherwise unusable shoreline into accessible pathways for bicyclists, runners, pedestrians, skaters, and dogs. With some 500 miles of trails altogether, there is tremendous scenery yet to be explored! In the East Bay, I am particularly familiar with a picturesque section in the otherwise economically-blighted city of Richmond.

I live in Oakland and work in Richmond, so I not uncommonly get off at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station and head for the Bay. The initial minutes of this journey are always daunting, as I have to negotiate congested intersections along Central Avenue at San Pablo Ave as well as freeway ramps for I-80 and 580, not to mention countless souls en route to or from Costco. I am nevertheless rewarded off the downside of the 580 overpass, as I make a right into much more serene environs along the trail. Although the beginning stretch of this pathway is lodged between a heavily used freeway and an enormous mail warehouse, I begin to see wetlands on my right, and quickly the noise pollution diminishes.

After crossing a bridge over a canal, I still have the marshy area on one side and a dog park on the other. Frisky pooches, both on and off leash, walk with and beyond their owners but are generally obedient enough not to mind bicyclists. The growth along the path soon becomes more tree and reed heavy, all but drowning out the freeway traffic.

After rounding a bend, the dog park gives way to close, rocky shoreline and cooler breezes. On most days, I have an unobstructed view of both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge, downtown San Francisco, and several islands in the bay, including nearby Brooks Island.

On my right, are some fenced-off areas with man-made ponds of unnatural hues and odd clumps of earth that may be landfills. However, I think it is all connected with the UC Berkeley Richmond Field Station which claims to be doing marsh cleanup and restoration. At any rate, signs are posted to keep people out, seemingly for good reason.

On the shoreline, I pass an old, rotting pier that probably hasn’t been functional for decades and looks as if its remains could topple into the bay at any moment. It is fenced-off from humans, though it is easily too treacherous to be tested by any sane person. Even the seagulls that roost on the moist wood are probably in some peril.

The trail forks off in two directions as it reaches an extensive condo development near the Richmond Marina. While the trail quickly morphs from a protected wildlife region into a residential one, the ride remains pleasant.

In one direction, the trail continues to follow the bayshore, albeit in a meandering way that isn’t very helpful when I have somewhere to be. The name of this area is the Shimada Friendship Park. The other route is a more direct way to work and still somewhat scenic for awhile. The path is tree-lined and parallels a creek bed before intersecting with Marina Bay Pkwy, on the other side of which is a small city park called the Marina Park and Green. From there, I follow Regatta Blvd. to Marina Way, and the serenity of well-heeled condo life is soon behind me, as I enter light and then heavier industry and must breathe the noxious air that Richmond residents breathe everyday.

Were I to continue northward, I could pick the trail back up in a more congenial landscape, but alas, I must sign in for work. If I have time, I’ll complete the same tour backwards in the evening rather than just taking BART most of the way home.


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