March 29, 1994
Andrew Thomas, Advanced Planning Department, City of Berkeley
2180 Milvia Street
Berkeley, California 94704
Re: The Berkeley Bay Trail
Dear Mr. Thomas:
The following paragraphs were previously sent to the City Council. It explains the background behind my request that you make wildlife (native nonhuman species) the top priority in your planning, and in particular, in planning the Bay Trail. Specifically, I would like to see the bayfront restored to as close to its prehuman condition as possible, in order to maximize protection for our endangered and not-yet-endangered native species. The provision of wildlife corridors, one parallel to the beach and some connecting with the Berkeley Hills and its creeks, should be considered. After all, we would be merely restoring what access wildlife enjoyed before we arrived and appropriated all the land for ourselves. (Incidentally, an appropriate participation in this process by native Americans should also be considered -- by them. They also have a prior claim to this land!)
The second priority should be providing a place where people on foot can enjoy the area, free from the dangers posed by faster- moving vehicles such as cars and bicycles. A walkway (preferably using a minimum of pavement -- only for the convenience of people using wheelchairs or who otherwise need a smooth surface) near the beach, separated from the road by a curb, would do that.
Third priority should be providing a pleasant place to bicycle. I suggest that the entire Frontage Road be dedicated for this purpose. The only motor vehicles allowed should be emergency vehicles. This would guarantee that waterfront users have as pleasant an experience as possible. There is no reason to allow other motor vehicles there, since there are no destinations in between the freeway access roads.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
There is a common assumption among humans that every square inch of the Earth belongs to us human beings and is ours to use as we wish. There is nothing wrong with this idea, except that it dooms almost every species of living thing on the Earth to extinction, especially us (who, unlike plants, can't make our own food). Besides, a life without wildlife would not be any fun. You can tell by where we choose to live (preferably with a view of a natural area full of wildlife), where we want to vacation (preferably in or next to wilderness), what we want to eat (we like variety -- otherwise known as "biodiversity"), and what we name places and things (e.g. Camelia Street, Walnut Creek, Mercury Cougar, etc.).
It is obvious that we need to preserve this biodiversity, both for our own survival, and for the pleasurable lifestyle we crave. It is also obvious that this cannot be accomplished by one person, one community, one company, one organization, one government agency, or even one country. The job is too huge. It will take all of us. Everyone has a part to play.
What is the part of the City of Berkeley? We can try to restore as much of the natural features of Berkeley as possible. We can and must open up our creeks, restore as much wildlife habitat as possible, create safe wildlife corridors connecting all habitat areas, bring back locally extinct species, and protect the wildlife that makes its home in Berkeley (some of the species that have become extinct in Berkeley are the Berkeley kangaroo rat (last seen 40 years ago), the horned lizard (last seen 30 years ago), and of course the grizzly bear). Just this morning I passed an opossum that had been killed by a hit-and-run driver on Ashby just west of Telegraph. I have seen a rackoon hit by a car, and the remains of squirrels and other animals.
We can actively seek information about our fellow nonhuman Berkeley residents, and make this information available to everyone. People entering Berkeley from the south on San Pablo Avenue are greeted by the sign "Berkeley City Limit. Population 120,300." From this one would conclude that human beings are the only residents that matter. There are far more salamanders than people in Berkeley. A sign like this would be a great place to recognize all species that are residents of Berkeley -- at least name some of them, and tell people where they can get a complete list. (Of course, we first have to create the list!)
We have far too much pavement in Berkeley. Most of it (99 percent?) is idle most of the time. The Chairman of Chevron recently acknowledged that the world will be out of oil in 50 years. It's not too early to start planning for this happy occasion, especially since the U.S. will be out of oil in 30-40 years. Let's begin thinking about what pavement we will tear up, and what we will plant there. Which streets will make nice wildlife corridors or car-free zones? Which intersections can be dispensed with, and turned into much-needed neighborhood parks. Every pair of eyes that we can lure outdoors reduces crime.
In other words, we need to "reify" our principles -- make them concrete. We need a Department of Wildlife. We need a Berkeley version of the (state & federal) Environmental Protection Agency. Obviously, none of these ideas will get implemented unless it is someone's job to do so. If you need a source of funds, I suggest taxes on the ownership, storage (parking), and use of motor vehicles. This is appropriate, because it is roads and motor vehicles that have been the major root cause of wildlife extinction, worldwide.
cc: Berkeley City Council