Richmond’s shoreline, one of the longest of any city in the Bay Area, will be a little greener and a little more accessible after two agencies voted to make major improvements along the formerly industrial waterfront.
“The beneficiaries aren’t just in Richmond. This will benefit the entire Bay Area,” said Whitney Dotson, a park district board member and lifelong Richmond resident. “We’ve decided to make this a priority, and it’s a beautiful thing.”
The Richmond council agreed unanimously Tuesday to spend about $500,000 from the Cosco Busan oil spill litigation payout to fill two gaps in the Bay Trail totaling 0.73 miles. The gaps are near Point Richmond and Brickyard Cove.
The council also decided to spend $154,000 to reopen Point Molate Beach Park, which has been sitting dormant since the city closed it for financial reasons a decade ago. Until last year, the area was slated for a large casino and hotel, but is currently in limbo since the city scrapped the project.
“A lot of us would like to see some progress at Point Molate,” said City Councilman Tom Butt. “It’d be nice to get some people out there, get the park reopened at least.”
The city is still years away from seeing the original vision of the Bay Trail completed. The current configuration takes cyclists along the southern shoreline, past the port and Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline and through the tunnel in Point Richmond. But instead of traveling north along the Point Molate and Point San Pablo shorelines, the path takes a shortcut down the Richmond Parkway and eventually reconnects with the bay near Breuner Marsh, 218 acres of shoreline property just south of Point Pinole.
Bruce Beyaert, head of the Trails for Richmond Action Committee, said the biggest obstacle to bringing the Bay Trail through points Molate and San Pablo is money.
The major property owners in that area – Chevron and Caltrans – are agreeable to creating easements for the Bay Trail, Beyaert said. But coming up with at least $15 million for design and construction is a little more challenging, he said.
“We’ve already been at this for 13 years. But we’re slowly making progress. We’ll get there,” he said. “It’s worth it – the Bay Trail is for everyone. It’s free. It’s a wonderful asset for the whole region.”
Meanwhile, the park district recently approved $1 million to restore Breuner Marsh. The project includes a 1 1/2-mile Bay Trail extension that links the Richmond Parkway with Point Pinole Regional Shoreline.
For Dotson, who grew up at Parchester Village next to the marsh, the move was especially gratifying. As a kid, he and his friends caught tadpoles and played in the wetland all the time, creating their own “personal environmental education class,” he said.
But they had to crawl through a barbed wire fence to get there, he said.
Now residents of northwest Richmond, as well as the rest of the Bay Area, will be able to reach the shoreline and enjoy its attributes without hopping fences.
“Psychologically, it’s very important for humans to have open spaces, even more than we realize,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the more parks, the better.”
Carolyn Jones is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org