City Council Deliberates Need for Playing Fields in Eastshore Park





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In a special session last night, the Berkeley City Council debated the creation of playing fields on the land designated to become Eastshore State Park.

A majority of council members heartily endorsed playing field construction, but ultimately the fields came second to nature conservation.

With a 7-2 vote, the council recommended the park contain playing fields only along the narrow North Basin Strip.

"I think it's absolutely irresponsible not to insist on playing fields in the city of Berkeley," said Councilmember Polly Armstrong.

In a previous 4-3 vote, the council voted against the state proposal to build playing fields on the Albany Plateau.

Councilmember Dona Spring authored the successful motion that advocated the state leave the plateau unchanged.

The plateau has become a spontaneous gallery for public art and an unleashed-dog park.

Environmentalists have added their voices in support of the plateau's cause, arguing the man-made landfill has become a valuable wildlife sanctuary.

Shortly before the council voted on the playing fields, a high school baseball team paraded through the chambers to show their support for more Berkeley playing fields.

Parents also brought their children dressed in soccer uniforms to support the effort. Community members at the meeting expressed disappointment when the council voted against more recreation space.

"Kids aren't well-provided for in Berkeley," said Councilmember Miriam Hawley, echoing the sentiments of many in attendance.

The state park, in its final planning stages, will stretch along the shoreline of six East Bay cities from Oakland to Richmond.

The California Department for Parks and Recreation will build, maintain and control the park. The state will take input from the city, but the final decision will lie with the state.

The bayside park's landmass is made entirely of landfill, but

environmentalists have argued that natural processes have transformed it into a valuable wildlife sanctuary.

Of particular value to environmentalists is the broad rolling meadow east of the Berkeley Marina. They have recommended the state make it a wildlife sanctuary.

Councilmember Betty Olds proposed fencing off the meadow to ensure that nesting birds are safe from people and their unleashed dogs.

The state's goal for the park is to create a "recreational facility harmonious with its natural setting." As part of this effort, the park will restore and daylight several creeks emptying into the Bay.

There are seven creeks that naturally flow to the Bay. Environmentalists are proposing all seven be restored, but the exact number has not yet been set.

The council also discussed its recommendation for the "Brickyard," a south-facing U-shaped cove. The state has proposed building a parking area, which is unpopular with the City Council.

"We should restore the Brickyard to a natural beach with sand," Spring said.

Armstrong said the cove should be used as a recreation area for picnics and family reunions.

"In this day and age when families are in trouble, we need to do everything we can to let families get together," she said.

The council will send its final recommendations to the state next week. The state will consider recommendations from all six cities and finalize a plan before construction.

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