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Parody: SPRAWLDEF Decision Trades Dog Beach for Tidal Flats

The new off-leash area is required by the ruling on the SPRAWLDEF lawsuit. (This 2014 April Fools' Day story initially was published without the "parody" disclaimer. We added it at the midday.)

Stella playing in the mud.
Stella playing in the mud.
By Paul Kamen 

The Alameda County Superior Court issued its long-awaited decision in the lawsuit
brought by SPRAWLDEF and Golden Gate Fields against the East Bay Regional Park 
District today. The suit has blocked EBRPD from acquiring racetrack property needed to complete a new link in the Bay Trail, and also delayed access improvements and erosion control at the Albany Beach and nearby shoreline. 

"The law is the law," reads the decision, "no matter how ill-conceived, inappropriate, or at odds with the public good." 

The decision instructs the Park District to strictly enforce existing statutes prohibiting dogs on Albany Beach before land acquisition and related improvements can proceed.

The court found that as a unit of the State Parks system, the rules prohibiting dogs on State Park beaches had to be enforced by any agency with management jurisdiction, regardless of that agency's preferred policies. 

Furthermore, the Eastshore Park General Plan includes the following: "Dog use and activity in the park project will be managed according to State Parks' guidelines in order to protect habitat values and enhance public safety. As such, dogs will not under any circumstances be permitted in management sub-zones designated as preservation areas or on any beach." 

But the decision also recognizes a "compelling public interest in off-leash dog recreation and exercise." In order to serve this interest, the decision instructs an equal area of the nearby Albany Tidal Flats, immediately to the north of the "Plateau" area, to be designated for off-leash dog use. The tidal flat is not a beach, so policy can be set case-by-case. 

"We're thrilled with the decision," said a member of the Albany Dog Washers 
Association. There's nothing a dog loves as much as a good romp in the mud." 

"It's true that the tidal flat is far more ecologically significant than Albany Beach," 
observed a Sierra Club member who had supported SPRAWLDEF's case against the Park District. 

"But we see this as a victory nonetheless. It's not really about the birds; it's about power in local politics." 

The decision also directs changes to the McGlaughlin Eastshore State Park General Plan that would allow vehicular access, parking, and tidal steps leading to the new off-leash area. The General Plan must now be revised to re-designate 12 acres of the 60-acre tidal flat area for recreation rather than as a preservation sub-zone. 

A spokesperson for the Audubon Society Golden Gate Chapter pointed out that this 
would severely compromise the burrowing owl habitat on the Plateau. 

"Even though there has never been a burrowing owl sighting in the five years since it's been fenced off and mowed regularly, you never know what the future will bring."

"The main thing is that we won the lawsuit," said another Sierra Club activist when 
informed of the decision. "We could have put the same effort into preserving thousands of acres of threatened marshland and tidal shoreline a little further away from high population centers. But the controversy over dog policy on Albany Beach, even though it's relatively insignificant from an ecological point of view, was the high profile event."

[*Editor's Note: This completes our April Fools' Day broadcast.]

Past April Fools' articles by Paul Kamen:
Autumn Johnson April 01, 2014 at 03:10 PM
This completes our April Fools' Day broadcast.
Judith Frank April 01, 2014 at 04:04 PM
Not far south there's also an off-leash area at the Berkeley Marina. As a dog lover, I believe we need to leave sensitive habitat in peace for the wild creatures who need that habitat to be born and to raise their young. Dogs have many places to enjoy; the burrowing owl, for example, does not.
Becky O'Malley April 01, 2014 at 05:44 PM
What does it say about the local political culture that I'm the only person who seems to have noticed that this was a joke?
Amy deHart April 01, 2014 at 06:01 PM
I noticed the article was a joke. (though I admit at first I was just incredulous at the quotes in the second half of the article before I remembered the date.) So did most of the people on the Albany Patch version of the post. I was just responding to the idea from the earlier comments that Pt Isabel is sufficient. For swimming dogs, it is not. And off-leash at Berkeley Marina also has no water access (and even if it did, would likely be rocky, not sandy.)
Paul Kamen April 02, 2014 at 03:33 PM
Actually, Stella is posing for the dog-in-mud photo at Berkeley Marina. But not near the off-leash zone in Cesar Chavez Park - she's just east of Shorebird Beach, over by the Cal Sailing Club on the south side of the marina. Technically this is all on-leash shoreline, but there's enough variety of uses so that no one kind of use or user group dominates. There's a sailboat and windsurfer launch, Adventure Playground, Shorebird Nature Center, and a beach with a picnic area and toddler playground. Plus parking, restaurants and a bait shop/convenience store close at hand. Some off-leash swimming and fetching goes on also, but conflicts are rare. It's a great example of a high-functioning mixed-use waterfront, with water access, open space, park amenities and commerce in very close proximity, and it serves a very wide variety of users extremely well. Still, shorebird beach is rocky and muddy at low tide and the sand is kind of gravelly, so Albany Beach remains very important as the only high quality dog beach, with real sand, for many miles.

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